Ankle Sprains2019-12-19T12:11:40-05:00

Ankle Sprains


When the strong ligaments supporting the ankle are stretched beyond their limits and tear, an ankle sprain occurs. Ankle sprains are common injuries sustained throughout our life spans. They range from mild to severe, depending upon how much damage there is to the ligaments. Many athletes are likely to suffer an ankle sprain or two in a given sports season.

Most sprains are minor injuries that heal with home treatments such as rest and icing. However, if your ankle is very swollen and painful to walk on, and you are having trouble bearing weight on it, be sure to see your doctor.

It is critical to seek professional diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation for more severe sprains, which can weaken the ankle if untreated, making it  vulnerable to further injury. Repeated ankle sprains can lead to long-term problems, including chronic ankle pain, arthritis and ongoing instability.

Symptoms of Ankle Sprain

The symptoms of ankle sprain vary, depending on the severity of the injury. The most common symptom of a sprained ankle is pain. Other symptoms may include:

  • Swelling.
  • Bruising.
  • Tenderness to touch.
  • Instability of the ankle, which may occur when there has been complete tearing of the ligament or complete dislocation of the ankle joint.

When ankle ligaments are severely torn, you may also hear or feel a “pop” when the sprain occurs. Symptoms of a severe sprain are similar to those of a broken bone and require prompt medical evaluation.

Home Treatments

For milder sprains, your doctor may recommend simple home treatment. The “RICE” protocol, for minor sprains, has endured the test of time. Start the RICE protocol as soon as possible after your injury:

  • Rest your ankle by not walking on it.
  • Ice should be immediately applied to keep the swelling down. It can be used for 20 to 30 minutes, three or four times daily. Do not apply ice directly to your skin.
  • Compression dressings or ace-wrap bandages will immobilize and support your injured ankle.
  • Elevate your ankle above the level of your heart as often as possible during the first 48 hours post-injury.

The medications recommended for ankle sprains are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and naproxen, which help reduce pain and swelling.

Treatment of Ankle Sprain

At Sideline Orthopedics, we will diagnose your ankle sprain by performing a careful examination of your foot and ankle. This physical exam will include:

  • Testing of strength and stability.
  • Palpation, or gentle pressing, of the ankle and the area surrounding it to determine which ligaments are injured.
  • Range of motion evaluation to determine the severity of the sprain. A stiff, swollen ankle usually will not move much.
  • X-ray imaging to rule out fractures.

Once certain there is no broken bone, Sideline Orthopedics will be able to ascertain the severity of your ankle sprain based upon the amount of swelling, pain and bruising. 

Usually ankle sprains can be treated without surgery. If immobilized appropriately, a complete ligament tear can heal without surgical repair. 

A three-phase program is utilized in treatment for most ankle sprains, from “mild” to “severe”:

  • Phase 1 includes resting, protecting the ankle and reducing the swelling.
  • Phase 2 involves restoring range of motion, strength and flexibility.
  • Phase 3 incorporates functional restoration of activity.

This three-phase treatment program may take just two weeks to complete for minor sprains. More severe injuries may require several weeks of treatment. Once the three phases are complete, and you are no longer in pain, you may return to normal activities and/or sports with the permission of your physician.

Depending on the level of severity, a brace, boot or crutches may be used.

Surgical Treatment Option

Chronic instability or severe injuries in some cases may require surgical reconstruction or repair of the supportive ankle ligaments. Minimally invasive arthroscopic procedures are an effective way to reconstruct or repair torn or stretched ankle ligaments.

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