An ankle sprain occurs when the strong ligaments that support the ankle stretch beyond their limits and tear. This is a common injury that occurs 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.
- Tenderness to the touch
- Ankle instability
- A “pop” sensation at the time of injury
You can treat most ankle sprains without surgery. Even a complete ligament tear can heal without surgical repair if it is immobilized properly. 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 ankle sprains can take as long as 12 weeks to recover.
Most sprains are minor injuries that heal with rest and applying ice. However, you should consult with a doctor if your ankle is very swollen and painful to bear weight. Your physician may order X-rays to rule out a fracture. Without proper treatment and rehabilitation, a severe sprain can weaken your ankle, increasing the likelihood of re-injury. Further, repeated ankle sprains can lead to long-term problems, including chronic ankle pain, arthritis, and ongoing instability.
- 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