An ankle sprain refers to an injury to the ligaments that support the ankle, where they get stretched and torn due to a force that is beyond the normal range of motion. A ligament is a tough band of fibrous connective tissue that connects bone to bone, usually holding structures together to keep them stable.
Sprained ankles mostly involve damage and injury to the lateral ligaments that are located on the outer side of the ankle.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
Symptoms of an ankle sprain include:
- Swelling and bruising at the ankle
- Tender to the touch
- Inability to put weight on the affected ankle
- Decreased range of motion of the ankle
- A “pop” sound may be heard when the injury occurs
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES AND RISK FACTORS?
Common causes of an ankle sprain include:
- Awkward landing after a jump
- Twisting motion of your ankle
- Walking on an uneven surface
- When your foot gets stepped on during a sporting activity
WHAT IS THE DIAGNOSIS?
A history of the injury and a physical examination of the ankle will be conducted by the Doctor. He may gently press on your ankle and move your ankle as well to check on your range of motion.
Imaging tests will be taken, such as x-ray to rule out other causes of pain such as a fracture, and a MRI scan to confirm the type of ligament tear.
Based on the damage done to the ligaments, ankle sprains can be classified into 3 categories:
- Grade 1
Mild ankle sprain with no significant tearing to the ligament
- Grade 2
Moderate ankle sprain with a partial tear to the ligament
- Grade 3
Severe ankle sprain with a complete tear to the ligament
WHAT ARE THE TREATMENT OPTIONS?
The treatment method for an ankle sprain depends on the type of sprain sustained. Patients who sustain a grade 1 and grade 2 sprain can recover with nonsurgical treatment methods, such as:
- RICE therapy (rest, ice, compression, elevation)
- Medication such as over-the-counter pain relievers (acetaminophen) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen) to relief pain and swelling
- Walking supports such as a brace or crutches to support your weight and let your ankle heal
- Strengthening exercises to regain strength in your ankle and restore your range of movement. This is done when the initial pain and swelling has subsided and you are able to move your ankle
For patients who have sustained a grade 3 sprain or nonsurgical treatments have not helped after a period of time, surgery may be recommended.