Person with ice on their ankleAnkle sprain injuries are caused by an unnatural twisting or force on the ankle bones of the foot, which may result in excessive stretching or tearing of one or more ligaments on the outside of the ankle.

The severity of the sprain can impact the degree of damage as well as the type and duration of treatment.

Symptoms of A Sprained Ankle

Symptoms of ankle sprain can include the following:

  • pain following a twist or injury
  • swelling
  • bruising
  • tender when you touch the ankle
  • poor range of motion
  • ankle feels unstable
  • a popping sound at the time of the injury

Problems If A Sprained Ankle Isn't Properly Treated

If not properly treated, ankle sprains may develop into long-term problems such as chronic ankle instability, a condition marked by persistent discomfort and a giving way of the ankle. Weakness in the leg may also develop.

Other reasons for getting an ankle sprain checked out:

  • A more severe ankle injury may have occurred along with the sprain. This might include a serious bone fracture that, if left untreated, could lead to troubling complications.
  • An ankle sprain may be accompanied by a foot injury that causes discomfort but has gone unnoticed.
  • Rehabilitation of a sprained ankle needs to begin right away. If rehabilitation is delayed, the injury may be less likely to heal properly. 

Treatment for Sprained Ankle

  • Rest. Stay off the injured ankle. Walking may cause further injury.
  • Ice. Apply an ice pack to the injured area, placing a thin towel between the ice and the skin. Use ice for 20 minutes and then wait at least 40 minutes before icing again.
  • Compression. An elastic wrap may be used to control swelling.
  • Elevation. The ankle should be raised slightly above the level of your heart to reduce swelling.
  • Bracing or walking boot. Depending on the severity of the ankle sprain your podiatrist may recommend either a brace (less severe) or a walking boot (more severe) to keep your ankle immobilized.
  • Early physical therapy. Your doctor will start you on a rehabilitation program as soon as possible to promote healing and increase your range of motion. This includes doing prescribed exercises.
  • Medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, may be recommended to reduce pain and inflammation. In some cases, prescription pain medications are needed to provide adequate relief.
  • MLS laser therapy. This newest treatment with laser can reduce inflammation and heal your injury more quickly than other methods.
  • Surgery. Sometime surgery is required to repair and tighten the damaged ligaments.

Preventing Sprained Ankles

Keep Your Home Free of Clutter, In Good Repair, and Slip Resistant

Many accidents happen at home due to clutter on the floor and disrepair. Ensure there is a clear path for walking throughout the house and particularly on the stairs. Repair broken outdoor steps and install automatic lights. In addition, keep kitchen floors dry by cleaning up spills right away and add a non-slip rubber mat to the shower or bath.

Wear the Right Shoes for Your Activity

Would you ever dream about wearing flip flops while running? Of course not. Unfortunately, many of us wear shoes best left at home instead of choosing the proper shoe for the activity we’re doing. For example, instead of wearing a supportive pair of walking shoes for a three mile walk, we leave the house in shoes that can be easily folded in half.

Wear running shoes for running, walking shoes for walking, basketball shoes for basketball and so on. Wearing shoes not intended for our sport or activity puts us at risk for ankle sprains and other foot injuries.

A general guideline when shopping for a supportive shoe is to find one that does not easily twist, folds only at the ball of the foot, and has a strong heel counter. Follow these guidelines on our video How To Test Any Shoe for Stability.

Watch Where You're Walking

Too many of us are engaged with our phones when we’re walking and this limits how much attention we can pay to what we’re walking on.Many sidewalks in Seattle have tree roots pushing through them, are in disrepair, or have other obstacles in the way. These hazards are a sprained ankle waiting to happen.

Check Your Kid’s Playfields

Your kid may be wearing proper shoes for their sport but their playfield may be littered with divots and other obstacles. Do a clean sweep of their field ahead of game time to prevent it from becoming a problem.

Keep Your Ankles Strong

Strong ankles are less likely to roll and get sprained. If you know you have weak ankles, ask your physician to refer you to a physical therapist or seek out a trainer you trust.

Learn about other sport injury treatments here.

Dr. Rion Berg
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A podiatrist in North Seattle treating families for over 40 years.