One of the most common sports injuries is the ankle sprain. It is the most common ankle injury, and occurs when the ankle is twisted, most often during some sort of activity such as playing sports. A sprain is an injury to the soft tissue, most commonly the ligaments. In most cases an ankle sprain is not a serious injury, although the pain might indicate otherwise

Symptoms of an Ankle Sprain

Most people know what to expect when they twist their ankle. Initially you should expect mild to severe pain that is exacerbated by pressure or movement. You may also notice some bruising due to damaged blood vessels near the injured soft tissue. Swelling is also caused by these damaged blood vessels which are bleeding into the soft tissue.

  • Ankle pain (mild to severe)
  • Difficulty moving the ankle
  • Swelling
  • Bruising

With a minor ankle sprain (Grade I) you may not experience any of the symptoms listed above and may be able to walk without pain or restriction. In a severe ankle sprain (Grade III) you may not be able to bear any weight on the ankle due to severe pain.

Diagnosis of Ankle Sprain:

Orthopedic surgeons diagnose an ankle sprain, and rule out other more serious injuries such as an ankle fracture, through a thorough physical examination of the ankle supplemented by visual studies like an x-ray to ensure there are no fractured bones. If serious ligament and/or tendon damage is suspected, an MRI may be ordered.

Treatment of an Ankle Sprain:

Treatment focuses on relieving the pain and swelling of the ankle. You don’t need me to tell you this but avoid putting weight on it as this will only make the pain and swelling worse. Most ankle sprains will resolve on their own but the RICE formula will help speed up the process and relieve some of the pain and swelling quicker:

  • Rest- Do not put any unnecessary weight on the affected ankle
  • Ice- this helps reduce pain and swelling
  • Compression- wrap your ankle with an elastic bandage to immobilize it and reduce swelling
  • Elevation- rest your ankle on a pillow while lying down or sitting

In addition to the RICE formula, you can also use over-the-counter anti-inflammatory (NSAIDS) medications such as ibuprofen or aspirin to help relieve pain. For more severe ankle sprains, a cast or brace may be used to immobilize the ankle while the ligament heals. If an MRI shows that ligaments are torn, surgery may be necessary to repair the ligaments.