Sprained Ankles and How to Treat Them

Sprained ankles can unexpectedly occur in individuals of all ages with a simple misstep. Stay informed on prevention and recovery.

A sprained ankle happens when ligaments in the ankle get torn or stretched, causing swelling, pain, and difficulty walking.

Foot pain treatment can help heal a severely injured ankle and maintain its stability and range of motion.

Here are a few things to know about sprained ankles and how to treat them:

What is a sprained ankle?

A sprained ankle is a ligament injury that happens when the ligaments supporting the ankle get stretched or torn. It’s a common mishap resulting from sudden twists or rolls, like stepping awkwardly or on uneven surfaces.

Picture this: you’re going about your day, make a simple misstep, and suddenly, you’ve got a sprained ankle. Ouch! The symptoms?

Think pain, swelling, bruising, and a bit of hobbling around. Diagnosis typically involves a doctor’s examination, maybe some X-rays or MRIs, for a closer look.

Treatments range from the classic R.I.C.E method (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) to more severe cases requiring braces, casts, and physical therapy.

Recovery time varies, but with the right care, you’ll be back on your feet in no time. So, mind your step, and avoid the unexpected ankle plot twist!

What are the symptoms of a sprained ankle?

A sprained ankle manifests through a constellation of discomforting symptoms, signaling the aftermath of ligament stress or tears. These indicators are crucial red flags, prompting individuals to seek timely medical attention.

Here’s a comprehensive breakdown of the common symptoms associated with a sprained ankle:

  1. Pain: The most prevalent symptom is pain, which can vary from mild to severe, depending on the extent of ligament damage. It intensifies with movement or when bearing weight on the affected ankle.
  2. Swelling: Ankle sprains typically trigger inflammation, causing noticeable swelling around the injured area. The swelling results from the body’s natural response to the injury, as blood rushes to the affected site.
  3. Bruising: Due to the injury, bruising may appear due to small blood vessel ruptures beneath the skin. The discoloration is often indicative of the severity of the sprain.
  4. Limited Range of Motion: The compromised ligaments may compromise ankle mobility, reducing the ability to flex or rotate the foot. This restriction is a direct consequence of the compromised ligaments.
  5. Tenderness to Touch: The affected area becomes tender and sensitive to touch, with palpable discomfort upon applying pressure or during a physical examination.
  6. Instability: Individuals with a sprained ankle may experience a sense of instability or weakness in the affected limb, making it challenging to maintain balance.

Recognizing these symptoms is crucial for prompt and effective treatment. If you suspect a sprained ankle, consulting with a healthcare professional can guide appropriate interventions and facilitate a smoother path to recovery.

Reference: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. (2019). Sprained Ankle.

How is a sprained ankle diagnosed?

Accurate diagnosis is crucial for effective treatment when facing the aftermath of a potential ankle sprain.

Several methods and examinations are employed to determine the extent of the injury:

  1. Physical Examination: The initial step involves a comprehensive physical examination by a healthcare professional. They assess the ankle’s range of motion, tenderness, and swelling.
  2. Clinical History: A detailed account of the incident leading to the injury is collected. Understanding how the sprain occurred aids in assessing the severity and potential complications.
  3. Imaging Tests: While not always necessary, X-rays may be taken to rule out fractures. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is another valuable tool, offering a detailed view of soft tissues like ligaments.
  4. Stress Tests involve applying pressure or stress to the injured ligament to evaluate its stability and identify potential tears or damage.
  5. Comparison with Uninjured Ankle: The injured ankle is often compared to the uninjured one for a baseline assessment, helping to gauge the degree of injury and plan appropriate treatment.
  6. Grading the Sprain: Ankle sprains are categorized into grades (I, II, or III) based on severity. Grade I involves mild stretching, Grade II is a partial tear, and Grade III indicates a complete ligament tear.

Accurate diagnosis sets the stage for tailored treatment plans, ensuring the most effective and efficient recovery.

It’s a systematic approach that combines medical expertise with advanced diagnostic tools. Offering a comprehensive understanding of the sprained ankle’s condition and guiding the path toward healing.

Types of Ankle Sprains

Ankle sprains consist of three main types depending on how much damage occurs to the ligament. They include:

  • Mild pain: The ligament fibers stretch slightly, causing a small tear. You’ll experience minor tenderness and swelling when you touch the ankle. 
  • Moderate pain: The ligament gets torn but without a complete tear. The injury causes ankle swelling, and you’ll feel pain when moving. 
  • Severe pain: The ligament gets torn entirely, and the ankle swells significantly, causing pain and making it hard to walk.

Treatment for Sprained Ankles

Treatment varies based on the seriousness of the injury. Foot pain treatment aims to reduce swelling and pain, restore proper ankle function, and promote the healing of the ankle ligament.

Appropriate treatment prevents chronic issues such as an inability to get back to sports, ankle pain or instability, and degenerative arthritis. Here are treatment options for sprained ankles:

Self Care 

This treatment involves avoiding activities resulting in swelling, pain, or discomfort. Use an ice pack several times throughout the day. If you have decreased sensation, vascular disease, or diabetes, consult your healthcare provider before applying ice.

To stop swelling, use an elastic bandage to compress the ankle. Don’t wrap it too tight, as that may hinder circulation.

Elevate your ankle, especially at night, since gravity helps to minimize swelling by draining the excess fluid. 

Medications and Devices

Over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen, naproxen sodium, or ibuprofen can help manage the pain effectively in mild cases.

Waking with a sprained ankle can be painful, and you may have to use crutches until the pain subsides.

Depending on the severity of the sprain, your healthcare provider can recommend an ankle support brace, sports tape, or elastic bandage to stabilize your ankle.

A walking boot or cast may be needed to mobilize your ankle for a severe sprain as it heals.


Once the pain and swelling have subsided enough and you start moving, your doctor may ask you to do some exercises.

Exercises help to restore your ankle’s strength, stability, flexibility, and range of motion. Stability and balance training help the muscles in your ankles work together to support the joint and prevent recurrent sprains.

If your sprained ankle resulted from participating in a sport or exercising, consult your doctor before resuming the activity.

They may want you to do movement tests to determine whether your ankle is fully healed before allowing you to continue playing the sport. 


Surgery may be the only solution when the injury fails to heal or your ankle remains unstable after an extended period of rehabilitation exercise and physical therapy. If your healthcare provider suspects that your sprained ankle requires surgery.

They’ll perform X-rays and, if needed, an MRI. These tests will let them know the severity of the damage. You may require surgery if a history of repeated sprains shows that ligament reconstruction is necessary. There should be evidence of one or several ankle ligaments needing repair.

An associated injury, such as a wholly or partially torn tendon, cartilage damage, or ankle joint fracture, can also require surgery. 

Find a Reliable Foot Pain Treatment Service

Choose a foot pain treatment service that can provide quality care throughout your treatment for sprained ankles. Their team should offer unparalleled expertise during treatment to increase the chances of a speedy recovery. Find a service that provides a variety of surgical and conservative treatments, including minimally invasive techniques to relieve your symptoms.

Frequently Asked Questions About Sprained Ankles:

Q1: What is a sprained ankle?

A1: A sprained ankle occurs when the ligaments supporting the ankle stretch or tear, usually due to sudden twisting or rolling movements.

Q2: How do I know if I have a sprained ankle?

A2: Common symptoms include pain, swelling, bruising, and difficulty bearing weight on the affected ankle. A medical professional can provide a definitive diagnosis.

Q3: What causes a sprained ankle?

A3: Sprained ankles often result from missteps, uneven surfaces, or sports-related injuries. Any activity that involves sudden changes in direction can contribute to ankle sprains.

Q4: Can a sprained ankle heal on its own?

A4: Mild sprains may heal with rest, ice, compression, and elevation (R.I.C.E). However, more severe cases may require medical intervention, such as bracing, physical therapy, or, in extreme cases, surgery.

Q5: How long does it take to recover from a sprained ankle?

A5: Recovery time varies depending on the severity of the sprain. While mild sprains may improve in a few weeks, more severe cases could take several months to recover fully.

Q6: Should I see a doctor for a sprained ankle?

A6: It’s advisable to consult a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment, especially if the pain is severe, swelling persists, or movement of the ankle is difficult.

Q7: Can you prevent sprained ankles?

A7: Prevention involves exercises to strengthen ankle muscles, wearing supportive footwear, and being cautious during activities that may cause ankle injuries. Consultation with a healthcare provider can provide personalized preventive measures.

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