An ankle sprain is actually a stretching or tearing of the ligaments in the ankle. An ankle sprain is a very common injury, with more than 25,000 occurring every day. They most commonly happen on the outside of the ankle during physical activity. An ankle sprain can also occur when the bones in the ankle break and are reset, but this is a far less common occurrence. Ankle sprains are usually painful, causing bruising underneath the skin and significant swelling. Depending on the severity, people sometimes cannot put weight on a sprained ankle.
The severity of the ankle sprain will determine whether treatment is necessary. Many minor sprains hurt for a short time and then go away, leaving the person to resume normal activity. However, sometimes the person feels a “pop” in the ankle, or the pain is on the inside of the ankle rather than the outside. If a person is unable to bear weight on their ankle, it is best to rule out a fracture with an x-ray rather than trying to wait for the pain to subside. Likewise, if the ankle appears deformed, if there is significant swelling, or if there is pain along the arch of the foot, it is important to seek out medical treatment. Otherwise, most sprains can be treated with R.I.C.E. – rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
Stretching before activity can prevent the loss of balance normally associated with ankle sprains. If a person is prone to ankle sprains, consult Dr. Jonathan Thurm at Tower Podiatry for functional exercises that can strengthen the muscles in the feet and legs to prevent ankle sprains from happening. He can also advise proper taping techniques to reinforce particularly susceptible joints during certain activities such as basketball, football, soccer, or other jumping or contact sports.