What is an Ankle Sprain?
A sprain is the stretching or tearing of ligaments. Ligaments connect adjacent bones and provide stability to a joint. An ankle sprain is a common injury that occurs when you suddenly fall or twist the ankle joint, or when you land your foot in an awkward position after a jump.
What are the Symptoms of an Ankle Sprain?
Ankle sprains can cause pain, swelling, tenderness, bruising, stiffness, and inability to walk or bear weight on the ankle.
How are Ankle Sprains Diagnosed?
The diagnosis of an ankle sprain is usually made by evaluating the history of the injury and through a thorough physical examination of the ankle. X-rays of your ankle may be ordered by your doctor to rule out the presence of a fracture.
What are the Treatment Options for Ankle Sprains?
The most common treatment recommended for ankle sprains is rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE).
- Rest: You should limit the use the injured foot to reduce pain and prevent further damage. Crutches may be ordered to limit weight-bearing while mobilizing.
- Ice: An ice-pack should be applied over the injured area to reduce swelling. Ice may be applied for 20 minutes every hour or two and should be continued for up to 3 days after the injury. You can use a cold pack or crushed ice wrapped in a towel. Never place ice directly over your skin. Ice packs help to reduce swelling and relieve pain.
- Compression: Compression of the injured area helps to reduce swelling and discomfort. This is usually accomplished by using an elastic wrap for a few days or weeks after the injury.
- Elevation: Place the injured ankle above your heart level for at least 2 to 3 hours a day and whenever you are resting to reduce swelling.
Your doctor may also apply a brace or splint to reduce motion of the ankle. Anti-inflammatory pain medications may be prescribed to help reduce pain and control inflammation.
What is the Rehabilitation for an Ankle Sprain?
During your recovery, rehabilitation exercises are recommended to strengthen and improve range of motion in your foot. You may need to wear a brace or wrap to support and protect your ankle during sports activities. The severity of the sprain determines how quickly one can rehab the ankle and return to full activity. In general, you should avoid pivoting and twisting movements for at least 2 to 3 weeks. To prevent further sprains or recurrence of injury, you may need to tape the ankle or wear a semi-rigid ankle brace during exercise, use special wraps, and high-top lace-up shoes for added support.