An ankle sprain is a stretch injury of the ligaments that support the ankle.
About 25,000 people sprain an ankle every day.
Most sprains and strains resolve with time, but occasionally other treatment, including physical therapy and surgery, may be required.
Sprains and strains may be caused by repetitive activities or by a single event. The ligaments on the outside of the ankle are most commonly injured when the foot is turned inward on an awkward step. When sprained, your ankle will hurt, swell, and may turn black and blue. You won’t be able to move your ankle as much as usual. When you put weight on your ankle, the pain will be worse.
Our doctors can usually diagnose a sprain through visual inspection and physical examination, combined with your health history. Ankle sprains are graded by severity on a scale of 1-3. Sprains graded as 1 generally have light swelling and a mild degree of swelling. Grade 2 sprains have moderate swelling, tenderness and decreased range of motion. The most aggravated sprains are labeled Grade 3 and have severe swelling, limited mobility, noticeable instability. Depending upon your unique situation, X-rays, CAT scan, or MRI scan may be needed to help make or confirm the diagnosis and rule out more advanced injury.
To care for your ankle sprain we recommend you follow the RICE method (The word RICE can help you remember what to do for your ankle: Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate).
• Rest your ankle. Stay off your ankle, or limit how much weight you put on it.
• Ice your ankle. Put ice packs on your ankle for 15 minutes at a time.
• Compression. Wrap your ankle with an elastic bandage to aid support and reduced swelling.
• Elevate your ankle. Keep your foot and ankle raised above the level of your heart while you sit or lie down. You can use
pillows to prop up your foot. This will help reduce swelling.
Depending on how bad the sprain is, your doctor may also prescribe:
• Anti-inflammatory medicine to help with pain and swelling
• Crutches to help prevent putting weight on your sprained ankle when you walk
• An air splint to give extra support to your ankle
• Wearing high-top shoes or boots to give your ankle extra support
Physical therapy can be used to strengthen the muscles and help with balance. The average sprain takes about 6 weeks to heal, but more severe sprains can take as much as four months. Beyond RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation), there are simple physical therapy suggestions that can help the ankle heal more quickly.
• Range-of-motion exercises help regain flexibility.
• Stretching exercises keep your Achilles tendon flexible while your ankle heals
• Balancing exercises help your other muscles work together for agility recovery
• Strengthening exercises help support your ankle and are preventative.
If full mobility is not restored in time, we can recommend more aggressive forms of treatment, including surgical options. Your ankle needs time to regain strength. It may take a few weeks to several months for your ankle to heal completely. Ankles can be easily re-injured if not allowed to heal properly before returning to work or sports.