Ankle Sprains

What is an Ankle Sprain?

An ankle sprain is a common walking and sporting injury. It can be a very painful experience and can significantly affect a patient’s lifestyle. It occurs due to the ankle twisting and causing damage to the soft tissues and ligaments. A ligament consists of several strands of tissue all compacted together to form a strong structure, similar to a rope. An ankle sprain may result in a partial or complete tear of a ligament, which stabilizes the ankle joint. Once the ligament is torn, it becomes weak which in turn affects ankle stability.

The degree in which the ankle stability is affected is dependent upon the level of the tear. When an ankle sprain occurs, the usual scenario involves the athlete "rolling" his or her ankle while landing from a jump or running followed by a sharp pain on the outside of the ankle. An audible "pop" or "snap" may accompany the injury, which sometimes signals ligamentous rupture. If the athlete can walk on the injured ankle, the likelihood of a serious injury is less, but athletic participation should be discontinued. Shoes should be kept on until examination and treatment. Symptoms include a swollen, painful ankle with possible bruising due to ruptured blood vessels.

How are ankle sprains diagnosed?

Signs of an ankle sprain are swelling, pain, bruising and trouble moving the ankle after the injury. Your doctor will usually be able to tell if you have a sprain by asking you some questions about how the injury occurred and by examining your ankle.

RICE approach

Rest--You may need to rest your ankle, either completely or partly, depending on how serious your sprain is. Use crutches for as long as it hurts you to stand on your foot.

Ice--Using ice packs, ice slush baths or ice massages can decrease the swelling, pain, bruising and muscle spasms. Keep using ice for up to 3 days after the injury.

Compression--Wrapping your ankle may be the best way to avoid swelling and bruising. You'll probably need to keep your ankle wrapped for 1 or 2 days after the injury and perhaps for up to a week or more.

Elevation--Raising your ankle to or above the level of your heart will help prevent the swelling from getting worse and will help reduce bruising. Try to keep your ankle elevated for about 2 to 3 hours a day if possible.

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