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Ankle Sprain

A sprained ankle is an injury to the ankle ligaments caused by sudden twisting, leading to pain, swelling, and instability; it can be categorized as mild, moderate, or severe, and proper treatment involves rest, ice, compression, and elevation to help heal the torn ligaments.

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What Is an Ankle Sprain?

An ankle sprain is a tear in the ligaments of the ankle. These ligaments hold part of the ankle in place or connect it to other bones in the leg and foot.

It's a very common, yet painful injury.

When you sprain your ankle:

  • Swelling and pain can occur almost right away.
  • Moving the ankle can be hard.
  • Putting weight on the leg can hurt.

What are the types ankle sprains?

There are two types of ankle sprains:

  • Eversion ankle sprains — occurs when the ankle rolls outward and tears the deltoid ligaments.
  • Inversion ankle sprains — occurs when you twist your foot upward and the ankle rolls inward.

The inversion ankle sprain is the more common of the two types of injuries.

The ankle area has three sections — lateral, medial, and high. All three areas of the ankle are prone to painful sprains.

  • Lateral ankle sprains — the most common type — injure the ligaments that prevent your foot from rolling inward toward the arch.
  • Medial ankle sprains cause damage to the set of ligaments that keep your foot from rolling outward.
  • High ankle sprains — sometimes called "tib/fib" sprains — injure the ligaments that hold your two leg bones together on top of the ankle. A forceful, upward movement of the foot and ankle causes this type of ankle sprain.

What causes ankle sprains?

Ankle sprains can occur for many reasons.

Some common causes of ankle sprains include:

  • Wearing the wrong type of shoes for your sport. This puts you at risk of twisting your ankle or even falling.
  • Placing unusual stress to the ligament. This could be from walking or running on an uneven surface, jamming your foot, or twisting your ankle in an odd way.

High impact sports — where you run, jump, climb, or kick — can put you at risk for an ankle sprain.

What are the complications of an ankle sprain?

Without proper diagnosis, treatment, and care, an ankle sprain can impede your ability to walk and do other routine activities.

A sprained ankle might make you walk unevenly. This causes you to put more weight on the healthy ankle and increases your risk of injuring that ankle.

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What Are the Symptoms of A Sprained Ankle?

Symptoms of an ankle sprain include pain and swelling of the affected area. The pain can be troublesome, or it can be so intense that you can't put any weight on your injured foot.

Twisted ankle symptoms include bruising. The ankle may also feel warm to the touch.

When you seek treatment for an ankle sprain, the doctor will conduct a physical exam of your ankle. He or she will also look at surrounding areas for other injuries, such as broken skin.

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How Do You Diagnose A Sprained Ankle?

Often, the doctor will order tests, such as an x-ray, to rule out any broken bones in the ankle or foot.

Doctors diagnose or “grade” sprains based on the amount of force applied to the ankle.

Talking to your doctor about your pain and its location will help with your diagnosis.

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What Is the Treatment for a Sprained Ankle?

When treating a sprained ankle — whether from athletic training or a sports injury — be sure to follow RICE:

  • R = rest.
  • I = ice.
  • C = compression (taping, bracing, or wrapping with an elastic bandage).
  • E = elevation.

If the ankle sprain affects your ability to walk, you may need crutches or a cane while you heal.

Other ankle sprain treatments for athletes and non-athletes may include:

  • Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory) or acetaminophen.
  • Strengthening, stretching, and balancing exercises.
  • Working with a physical therapist or your coach to improve your movements.

If your injury occurred while playing a sport, check the conditions under which you were hurt.

Check field or floor conditions before you play and wear the proper footwear for your sport.

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