Understanding Ankle Sprain
- Most people have twisted an ankle at some point in their life. But if your ankle gets swollen and painful after you twist it, you have most likely sprained it. This means you have stretched and possibly torn the ligaments in your ankle.
- Usually, the more pain and swelling you have, the more severe your ankle sprain is and the longer it will take to heal.
- In many cases you can first use the PRINCE approach to treat your ankle. PRINCE stands for protection, rest, ice, NSAIDs (pain relievers), compression, and elevation. Treating a sprained ankle may help prevent ongoing ankle problems.
- If your ligament is torn very badly, you may need surgery to repair it.
- After an ankle sprain, rehabilitation exercises will help you get better. Depending on how bad your sprain is, you may try to walk or put weight on your ankle. You may need crutches to do this at first. Later you can do stretching, strengthening, and balance exercises.
What is an ankle sprain?
Most people have twisted an ankle at some point in their life. But if your ankle gets swollen and painful after you twist it, you have most likely sprained it. This means you have stretched and possibly torn the ligaments in your ankle. See a picture of an ankle sprain.
Even though ankle sprains are common, they are not always minor injuries. Some people with repeated or severe sprains can develop long-term joint pain and weakness. Treating a sprained ankle can help prevent ongoing ankle problems.
What causes ankle sprains?
Most ankle sprains happen when you make a rapid shifting movement with your foot planted; for example, when you play soccer or get tackled in football. Often the ankle rolls outward and the foot turns inward. This causes the ligaments on the outside of the ankle to stretch and tear. Less often, the ankle rolls inward and the foot turns outward. This damages the ligaments on the inside of the ankle. See a picture of the different types of ankle sprains.
An ankle sprain can range from mild to severe, depending on how badly the ligament is damaged. With a mild sprain, the ankle may be tender, swollen, and stiff. But it usually feels stable, and you can walk with little pain. A more serious sprain might include bruising and tenderness around the ankle, and walking is painful. In a severe ankle sprain, the ankle is unstable and may feel "wobbly." You can't walk, because the ankle gives out and may be very painful. See a picture of a severe ankle sprain.
What are the symptoms?
With most sprains, you feel pain right away at the site of the tear. Often the ankle starts to swell immediately and may bruise. The ankle area is usually tender to touch, and it hurts to move it.