An ankle sprain occurs when the strong ligaments that support the ankle stretch beyond their limits and tear. Ankle sprains are common injuries that occur among people of all ages as a result of the foot rolling or twisting to one side. Sprains range from mild to severe; depending upon how much damage there is to the tissues.
Most sprains are minor injuries that heal with rest and applying ice. However, if your ankle is very swollen and painful to walk on — or if you are having trouble putting weight on your ankle at all, be sure to see your doctor. In many cases x-rays should be done to rule out a fracture. Without proper treatment and rehabilitation, a severe sprain can weaken your ankle—making it more likely that you will injure it again. Other ankle sprains can lead to persistent pain or disability if inappropriately treated. Repeated ankle sprains can lead to long-term problems, including chronic ankle pain, arthritis, and ongoing instability.
- Tenderness to the touch
- Ankle instability
- A “pop” sensation at the time of injury
Almost all ankle sprains can be treated without surgery. Even a complete ligament tear can heal without surgical repair if it is immobilized appropriately. Depending on the severity of the sprain, your physician may wrap the ankle in a bandage or a device for protection and support such as a boot or an air brace. Mild sprains usually resolve within two weeks, while severe injuries can take as long as 12 weeks to recover.
- Phase 1: rest, ice, immobilize and elevate the ankle to reduce swelling
- Phase 2: restore range of motion, strength and flexibility.
- Phase 3: gradual return to activities