Ankle sprain occurs when the strong ligaments that support the ankle stretch beyond their limits and tear.
Most sprained ankles occur in the ligaments on the outside of the ankle. Sprains can range from tiny tears in the fibers that make up the ligament to complete tears through the tissue.
If there is a complete tear of the ligaments, the ankle may become unstable. Over time, this instability can result in damage to the bones and cartilage of the ankle joint.
Ankle sprains are common injuries that occur among people of all ages. They range from mild to severe depending upon the damage to the ligaments. Ankle sprain can be sustained by walking or exercising on an uneven surface, falls, sports that require cutting actions or rolling and twisting of the foot or during sports someone else may step on your foot while you are running, causing your foot to twist or roll to the side.
Most sprains are minor injuries that heal with home treatments (RICE treatment) rest, applying ice, compression and elevation. However, if your ankle is very swollen and painful to walk on or if you are having trouble putting weight on your ankle then you need to see the doctors.
Almost all ankle sprains can be treated without surgery. Even a complete ligament tear can heal without surgical repair if it is immobilized appropriately.
A three-phase program guides treatment for all ankle sprains from mild to severe
- Phase 1 includes resting, protecting the ankle and reducing the swelling.
- Phase 2 includes restoring range of motion, strength and flexibility.
- Phase 3 includes maintenance exercises and the gradual return to activities that do not require turning or twisting the ankle. This will be followed later by being able to do activities that require sharp, sudden turns (cutting activities).
This three-phase treatment program may take just 2 weeks to complete for minor sprains, or up to 6 to 12 weeks for more severe injuries.
Without proper treatment and rehabilitation, a more severe sprain can weaken your ankle making it more likely that you will injure it again. Repeated ankle sprains can lead to long-term problems, including chronic ankle pain, arthritis, and ongoing instability.