Ankle Sprains

Ankle sprains occur when the ankle twists or turns in an awkward position, stretching or tearing the ligaments in the ankle that help to stabilize the bones and joints. Ankle sprains are a common, painful injury that can lead to chronic ankle pain and instability if not treated appropriately.


There are two types of ankle sprains that are categorized by the type of motion that causes the injury. Lateral inversion sprains are most common and happen when the foot rolls inward, impacting ligaments on the outer side of the ankle. Medial eversion sprains happen when the foot rolls outward, impacting ligaments on the inner side of the ankle. A rare injury is a high ankle sprain, which happens when the foot rolls outward and the leg turns inward.


Symptoms of an ankle sprain vary depending on the type of injury and level of severity. The most common symptoms are pain, swelling, bruising, limited range of motion, and difficulty bearing weight. At the time of injury, a popping sensation may be experienced.


To diagnose an ankle sprain, physicians will review symptoms and conduct a physical examination. Factors physicians will look for include points of tenderness, ability to move the foot, and positions of discomfort or pain. Imaging tests may be used to rule out broken bones or other injuries in the foot and ankle.


Treatment for an ankle sprain varies depending on the severity of the injury. In most cases, rest, ice, compression, elevation, and over-the-counter pain relievers are effective. Ankle braces, casts, and walking boots will be required in advanced sprains. Because walking will be painful, crutches may be recommended until the ankle is stabilized. Physical therapy may also be recommended to regain strength and movement after the ankle is stabilized. Surgery is rare, but may be required if the ligament does not heal.

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