Ankle Sprain

Ankle sprains are among the most common injuries, affecting people of all ages and activity levels. This article will discuss everything you need to know about ankle sprains, from what they are and how they occur to their diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. 

Whether you’re an athlete, a fitness enthusiast, or simply someone who enjoys an active lifestyle, knowing how ankle sprains heal can help you get back on your feet faster. If you’re seeking expert care for ankle sprains or other orthopedic concerns, consider scheduling an appointment with Orthopedic Specialists & Sports Medicine, conveniently located in Granville and Coshocton, Ohio.

What is an Ankle Sprain?

An ankle sprain happens when you twist or turn your ankle in a way that stretches or tears the tough bands of tissue (ligaments) that hold your ankle joint together. This is what we call a “sprained ankle.”

Your ankle joint is made up of bones and held together by strong bands called ligaments. When you sprain your ankle, it means you’ve stretched or torn one or more of these ankle ligaments.

Ankle sprains are common and can happen to anyone, whether you’re playing sports or just walking on an uneven surface.

What Causes Ankle Sprains?

An ankle sprain occurs when the ligaments in your ankle get stretched or torn. Ligaments are like strong rubber bands that hold your ankle bones together. Ankle sprains usually happen when your foot turns inward, causing the ankle to roll outward. 

Common causes of ankle sprains include:

  1. Tripping or falling: If you trip on something or fall, you might twist your ankle as you try to catch yourself.
  2. Walking or running on uneven surfaces: Uneven ground can make it easy to roll or twist your ankle.
  3. Playing sports: Activities like basketball, soccer, or tennis that involve a lot of running and jumping can increase the risk of ankle sprains.
  4. Wearing inappropriate footwear: Shoes that don’t fit well or don’t provide enough support can make you more likely to sprain your ankle.
An athlete with an ankle sprain in Granville, Ohio.

What Are the Different Classifications of Ankle Sprains?

Ankle sprains can vary in severity, and they’re classified into three main types: mild, moderate, and severe ankle sprains.

  1. Mild (Grade I) sprained ankle: This is the least severe type of ankle sprain. It happens when the ligaments are stretched but not torn. You might have some pain and swelling, but you can usually still walk.
  2. Moderate (Grade II) sprained ankle: This is a bit more serious. It occurs when the ligaments are partially torn. You’ll likely have more pain, swelling, and bruising. Walking may be difficult, and your ankle might feel unstable.
  3. Severe (Grade III) sprained ankle: This is the most serious type of sprain. It happens when the ligaments are completely torn. You’ll have a lot of pain, swelling, and bruising. Walking will be very difficult, and your ankle will feel very unstable.

In addition to these classifications, there are two special types of ankle sprains:

  • High ankle sprain: This type of sprain happens when the ligaments above the ankle joint are injured. It’s often caused by a sudden twisting motion and can take longer to heal than a typical sprained ankle.
  • Chronic ankle sprain: Some people experience recurring ankle sprains or continue to have symptoms of pain and instability even after their initial injury has healed. This is called chronic ankle instability and may require special treatment.

It’s important to see a doctor if you think you’ve sprained your ankle, especially if it’s a severe sprain or if you’ve had multiple sprains in the past.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of an Ankle Sprain?

Signs and symptoms of an ankle sprain can vary depending on the severity of the injury, but here are some common ones to look out for:

  1. Pain and swelling: This is usually the first sign of an ankle sprain. You might feel a sudden, sharp pain at the time of injury, followed by swelling around the ankle joint.
  2. Bruising: After a day or two, you might notice bruising around the ankle area. This happens as blood vessels break due to the injury.
  3. Difficulty walking: Depending on the severity of the sprain, walking might be painful or difficult. You might have to limp or avoid putting weight on the injured ankle.
  4. Stiffness and limited range of motion: Your ankle might feel stiff, and you may have trouble moving it as freely as usual.
  5. Tenderness to touch: The area around the injured or torn ligament may be tender to touch.
  6. Chronic ankle pain: In some cases, especially with severe sprains or torn ligaments, you may experience chronic ankle pain even after the initial injury has healed.

How is an Ankle Sprain Diagnosed?

To diagnose an ankle sprain, a healthcare provider will typically start by asking about how the injury occurred and your symptoms. They will then perform a physical examination of the injured ankle, checking for tenderness, swelling, and bruising.

In some cases, your doctor may recommend imaging tests such as X-rays, MRI, or ultrasound to rule out fractures or assess the severity of the sprain, especially for chronic or severe sprains.

The combination of your history, physical examination findings, and any imaging results will help your doctor diagnose ankle sprains and determine the appropriate treatment plan.

How are Ankle Sprains Treated?

Treating an ankle sprain usually involves a combination of self-care measures and professional medical intervention. Here’s what you can expect:

  1. R.I.C.E method: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation are the first steps in treating a sprained ankle. Resting the injured ankle helps prevent further damage, while applying ice, compression bandages, and elevating the foot help reduce pain and swelling.
  2. Pain relief: Over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation.
  3. Immobilization: For more severe ankle sprains, your doctor may recommend using a brace, splint, or walking boot to immobilize the ankle and promote healing.
  4. Physical therapy: Once the initial pain and swelling have subsided, physical therapy exercises can help strengthen the muscles around the ankle, improve flexibility, and restore stability. This is especially important for preventing chronic ankle sprains.
  5. Supportive footwear: Wearing supportive shoes or using ankle braces during physical activities can help prevent future ankle sprains, especially for those prone to chronic ankle sprains.
  6. Surgery (in severe cases): Surgery is rarely needed for ankle sprains but may be considered for severe sprains with significant ligament damage that doesn’t respond to other treatments.

By following these treatment steps and allowing adequate time for healing, most people can recover from an ankle sprain and return to their normal activities.

Understanding Ankle Sprains

Whether you’re an athlete or someone who enjoys an active lifestyle, don’t let ankle sprains hold you back. If you’re experiencing persistent pain or instability in your ankle, schedule an appointment with Orthopedic Specialists & Sports Medicine. 

With multiple locations in Ohio, including Granville and Coshocton, our team of orthopedic specialists can provide expert care and personalized treatment plans to help you recover from ankle sprains and get back to doing what you love. Contact us today!

Medically reviewed by
Alex Tancevski, M.D.