A sprained ankle is an injury that occurs when you twist or roll the ankle. In this injury the ligaments at the ankle tear or stretch beyond their normal limits. These ligaments assist in holding the ankle joint together when we walk and run and prevent excessive range of motion within the joint and lower leg.
Treatment for a sprained ankle depends on the severity of the injury. Although, self-treatment and over-the-counter pain medications may be all you need, a medical evaluation may be necessary. This exam will reveal the severity of the sprain and determine the appropriate treatment. The old advice to “walk off a sprain” is not always appropriate and may lead to worsening the condition.
Signs and symptoms of a sprained ankle vary depending on the severity of the injury. They may include:
- Pain, especially when you bear weight on the affected foot
- Tenderness when you touch the ankle
- Restricted range of motion
- Instability in the ankle
- Popping sensation or sound at the time of injury
When to see a doctor:
Call your doctor if you have pain and swelling in your ankle and you suspect a sprain. Self treatment measures may be all you need, however, talk to your doctor to discuss whether you should have your ankle evaluated. If signs and symptoms are severe, there may be significant damage to a ligament or a broken bone in your foot, ankle or lower leg.
Risk factors: Factors that increase your risk of a sprained ankle include:
- Sports participation. Ankle sprains are a common sports injury, particularly in sports that require jumping, cutting action, or rolling or twisting of the foot such as basketball, tennis, football, soccer and trail running.
- Uneven surfaces. Walking or running on uneven surfaces or poor field conditions may increase the risk of an ankle sprain.
- Prior ankle injury, Once you’ve sprained your ankle or had another type of ankle injury, you’re more likely to sprain it again.
- Poor physical condition. Poor strength or flexibility in the legs may increase the risk of a sprain when participating in sports.
- Improper shoes. Shoes that don’t fit properly or not appropriate for your sport or activity.
Failing to treat a sprained ankle properly such as engaging in activities too soon after your injury and/or spraining your ankle repeatedly might lead to the following complications:
- Chronic ankle pain
- Chronic ankle joint instability causing chronic sprains
- Traumatic arthritis in the ankle joint and foot
The following tips can help you prevent a sprained ankle or a recurring sprain:
- Warm up before you exercise or engage in sports
- Use an ankle support brace or tape on a weak or previously injured ankle
- Wear shoes that fit well and are specific to your sport
- Maintain good muscle strength and flexibility
- Attend physician prescribed physical therapy for rehabilitation