An ankle sprain is characterized by damage done to a ligament in the ankle. Ligaments are bands of tissue that connect bones, and they are responsible for much of the stability and movement performed by your foot. Ankle sprains can vary in severity because ligaments can be anywhere from slightly stretched to completely torn.
Ankle sprains can be caused by many things, such as a sudden twist, a fall, or even a direct hit to the ankle. Running on an uneven surface and playing sports are common causes of ankle sprains. If you have suffered from a previous ankle injury, you are more likely to experience an ankle sprain, likely because your ankle is weaker than before.
Symptoms of ankle sprains include bruising, swelling, pain, joint stiffness, and trouble walking. However, if you have had a previous ankle sprain, you might just feel as though your ankle is unsteady while walking.
Diagnosing an ankle sprain is relatively simple. Your orthopedic doctor will evaluate the injury and may use imaging tests, like an x-ray, to determine how serious it is.
Treating an ankle sprain is very important. Without treatment, an ankle sprain can lead to chronic ankle instability, which is characterized by your ankle constantly feeling like it is giving way. Your doctor will also need to evaluate you in order to check for a more serious injury, like a bone fracture. Rehabilitation is also needed right away to make sure that the injury has a chance to heal correctly.
The first method of treatment for an ankle sprain is the R.I.C.E. method, which stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Resting your ankle and using ice therapy to reduce swelling are important first steps. A compression wrap and elevating the ankle above the level of the heart can also reduce swelling.
Your orthopedic doctor might suggest physical therapy exercises in order to restore strength and range of motions, and medication can help to reduce pain and inflammation. Surgery for an ankle sprain is very rarely needed and is only used for severe cases. If necessary, surgery can be performed to manually repair the damaged ligament.