What Is an Ankle Sprain?The most common of all ankle injuries, an ankle sprain occurs when there is a stretching and tearing of ligaments surrounding the ankle joint. The numerous ligaments around the ankle can become pulled and torn when the ankle is forced into a position not normally encountered.
Causes of Ankle SprainsThe most common cause of an ankle sprain is applying weight to the foot when it is in an inverted or everted position. Commonly, this happens while running or jumping on an uneven surface. The foot rolls in (inversion) or out (eversion) and the ligaments are stretched. Occasionally a loud "snap" or "pop" is heard at the time of the sprain. This is usually followed by pain and swelling of the ankle.
Ankle sprains are classified by the degree of severity. See a visual series of an ankle sprain by severity. These are:
- Grade I - stretch and/or minor tear of the ligament without laxity (loosening).
- Grade II - tear of ligament plus some laxity.
- Grade III - complete tear of the affected ligament (very loose).
Take the Ankle Sprain Risk Test and check your risk for an ankle sprain during sports.
Treating Ankle SprainsFor immediate relief, follow the R.I.C.E. treatment plan. Rest, Ice, Compression and elevation are the best immediate treatment for all pulls and strains. Many of the problems resulting from sprains are due to blood and edema in and around the ankle, therefore it is important to minimizing swelling. After applying the ice, wrap the ankle in an ACE bandage or wrap to keep it supported and compressed. An anti-inflammatory can be helpful to reduce pain and inflammation for the first 7 to 10 days after the injury.
- Rest. Avoid weight bearing for 24 hours or longer for a severe sprain.
- Ice. Apply ice (bagged, crushed ice wrapped in a thin towel) to the ankle joint. To avoid frostbite, ice should not be left on the area longer than 20 minutes at a time. Ice 20 minutes every 2 hours for the first 24 hours to control swelling.
- Compression. Wrap the ankle with an elastic bandage (start at the toes and wrap up to the calf) to help prevent swelling and edema.
- Elevation. Raise the ankle above the hip or heart to reduce swelling.
- If swelling doesn't subside in 48 to 72 hours, seek medical treatment for a complete evaluation.
- If unable to weight bear within 48 hours, seek medical treatment
Any ankle injury that does not respond to treatment in 1-2 weeks may be more serious. Always consult a physician for a thorough evaluation and diagnosis.
Also See: Foot | Ankle Injury Information