Ankle Sprain

A sprain is an injury to one or more ligaments in the ankle, usually located on the outside. Ligaments are bands of tissues (like rubber bands) that connect one bone to another, holding the joints in place by limiting side-to-side movement. Typically, this is caused by an unnatural twisting or force on the foot, which may stretch or tear one or more ligaments in the ankle.

The severity of an ankle sprain is dependent on whether the ligament is stretched, partially torn, or completely torn, in addition to the number of ligaments involved in the sprain.

Although similar, ankle sprains are NOT the same as ankle strains, or ankle fractures, which affect different mechanisms within the ankle.

Engaging in any of the following activities can increase your risk of an ankle sprain.

  • Weak muscles and tendons that cross the ankle joint
  • Weak or lax ligaments – this can be hereditary or due to overstretching of ligaments as a result of repetitive ankle sprains
  • Poor ankle flexibility
  • Lack of warm-up or stretching before activity
  • Slow neuron muscular response to an off-balance position
  • Running on uneven surfaces
  • Shoes with inadequate heel support
  • Wearing high-heeled shoes – due to the weak position of the ankle joint with an elevated heel, and a small base of support, this puts the ankle in a vulnerable position

Symptoms

These may all vary in intensity, and other symptoms resulting from accompanying diagnoses may be present. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, call our office to meet with a specialist ASAP.

  • Pain or soreness
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Difficulty walking
  • Stiffness in the joint
  • Unsteady or wobbly ankle

Seeking prompt medical attention is crucial to the healing of an ankle sprain. An untreated sprain may lead to other diagnoses such as chronic ankle instability or a bone fracture. Delaying rehabilitation and treatment may give the patient a lower chance at completely healing the injury.

Treatment Options

Nonsurgical:

Treatment of ankle sprains depends upon the severity of the injury. Your podiatrist will initially instruct you to follow the R.I.C.E. protocol:

    • Rest: Stay off the injured ankle.
    • Ice: Apply an ice pack to the injured area, using a thin towel as a barrier between the ice and skin. Apply ice for 20 minutes, then wait 40 minutes before repeating the process.
    • Compression: An elastic wrap should be used to control swelling. Be sure to not wrap the area too tight, to allow for adequate circulation to the injury site.
    • Elevation: The ankle should be raised slightly above heart-level to reduce swelling. Additionally, the podiatrist may recommend stretching, minimally intensive exercises, or physical therapy to increase the speed of the healing process.

Surgical:

Surgery may be required if the ligaments are stressed enough. This approach would ensure the ligaments are entirely repaired to the desired tightness.

Follow your surgeon’s instructions after treatment. Failure to do so can lead to infection, deformity, arthritis, or chronic pain.