An ankle sprain is when the ligaments in your ankle are stretched (strained) or torn (sprained). The ligaments are tissues that hold bones together. You may have had a sudden injury to your ankle, such as tripping or twisting, or you may have bent your ankle the wrong way.
You may have pain, tenderness, swelling, or bruising of the injured ankle. You may also not be able to bear weight on and/or move the ankle very well.
People often disregard ankle sprains as not important; however, in order to avoid long-term damage to the ankle, it is necessary to consult with your physician. Due to the risk of hematoma (a deeper soft tissue blood injury) and infection, it is recommended that all patients with ankle sprains consult with a foot and ankle specialist without delay.
During your visit, your ankle will examined to determine the extent of the damage. You will likely need an x-ray to rule out bone injury. Sometimes advanced diagnostic imaging such as CT scan or MRI may be necessary. You may have pain, tenderness, swelling, or bruising of the injured ankle. You may also not be able to bear weight on and/or move the ankle very well.
You may need to wear a brace, splint, ace wrap or cast boot on the injured ankle. Crutches may be needed to help you walk. You may take acetaminophen or ibuprofen to help the pain, but do not take ibuprofen if you are allergic to aspirin. Rest, ice, and elevation, may also lessen the swelling and pain.
It is important to allow your ankle to heal properly and in some cases determined by your doctor non-weight bearing may be required. Additionally, a period of rest and recovery is necessary to help the ligaments that connect bone to bone around the ankle joint heal and prevent re-injury.
X-rays are recommended to make sure there are no injuries to the bone inside the ankle joint and to make sure there are no broken bones in the ankle itself.
Depending on the severity of the ankle sprain it can take anywhere from six to twelve weeks to heal. During the recovery icing, elevation, compression, immobilization, and topical or oral medications may be used.
Physical therapy plays a vital role in healing ankle sprains to bring down swelling and improving range of motion. It is also very important in preventing re-injury. Special exercises may be done that increase the amount of feedback that occurs between your ankle joint and your brain by strengthening tiny little receptors known as proprioceptors. These are trained to increase their sensitivity to lessen the chance of re-injury.
Seek medical help if your sprain is very difficult to bear weight on or if you notice extensive bruising throughout the foot and ankle. Additionally, seek help if your ankle does not improve remarkably in 2-3 days and if you notice any strange clunking or clicking sounds about your ankle.