Ankle sprain

How an ankle sprain happens

A sprained ankle is a common injury sustained when some kind of force is applied to the foot compromising the soft tissue, particularly the ligaments, connecting the foot and lower leg. An ankle sprain may occur as the result of abnormal, forced rolling or twisting of the ankle. This stretches the ligament and causes instability in the foot.

Sprained ankles are common sports injuries sustained in a variety of sports including football, basketball, baseball, soccer and lacrosse.

How to know if you have a sprained ankle 

Sprained ankles usually present with tenderness, swelling, bruising, and pain. It may be difficult to move your foot up and down, or to the left and right, without feeling pain. You may also feel a popping or stretching sensation.

Your physician will conduct a physical/visual examination and discuss the history of your injury. An X-ray may be ordered for the evaluation of an ankle sprain.

How long does it take to recover from an ankle sprain?

Initially, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications will help ease swelling and control pain. Icing your ankle for no more than 15-20 minutes once every hour may also relieve symptoms. A severe high-ankle sprain may often present with similar symptoms as a fractured bone. An X-ray can confirm or rule out a broken bone.

There are three classifications of an ankle sprain: Grade I, Grade II, and Grade III.

The grade, or severity, of your sprain is determined during an exam with a physician and depends on how much the ligaments have been stretched or torn.

A Grade I ankle sprain means the ligament was only slightly stretched and will generally heal on its own with a home care plan. The injury typically resolves in 2-4 weeks.

A Grade II sprain is a larger but incomplete tear and is accompanied by a higher degree of swelling and discomfort. A Grade II sprain may also show significant bruising. Consulting with your physician and a physical therapist is advised, as medical direction may help alleviate these symptoms sooner than if you manage it on your own. The injury may resolve as soon as 4 weeks, but could take 6-8 weeks to fully heal.

A Grade III ankle sprain is a complete tear of the affected ligaments with severe swelling and bruising. Ankle instability is prevalent with this grade of sprain. A patient with a high Grade II or Grade III sprain may be placed in a walking boot for several weeks to allow the injury time to heal. If the ligaments are completely torn away from the bone, called an avulsion fracture, surgery may be necessary to repair the ligaments.

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