An ankle sprain is stretching or tearing of the ligaments which connect adjacent bones in the ankle joint and provide stability to the ankle joint. Ankle sprains are a common injury and occur when you fall or suddenly twist your ankle or when you land on your foot in an awkward position after a jump. It most commonly occurs when you participate in sports or when you run or jump on uneven surfaces. Ankle sprains can cause pain, swelling, tenderness, bruising, stiffness, numbness in the toes, and inability to walk or bear weight on the ankle.
The diagnosis of an ankle sprain is usually made based on history of the injury and physical examination of the ankle. X-rays of the ankle may be needed to determine if a fracture is present.
The most common treatment recommended for ankle sprains is rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE).
- Rest: Avoiding walking or bearing weight on the injured ankle will help reduce pain and prevent further damage. Crutches can be used to help with getting around.
- Ice: An ice pack should be applied over the injured ankle 15-20 minutes every hour up to 3 days after the injury. You can use a cold pack or a bag of crushed ice wrapped in a towel. Ice packs help to reduce swelling and relieve pain. Never place ice directly on the skin.
- Compression: Compression of the injured ankle helps to reduce swelling and bruising. This is usually accomplished by using an elastic wrap for few days to weeks after the injury.
- Elevation: Placing the injured ankle above heart level will help to reduce swelling. Elevation of an injured ankle can be done for about 2-3 hours a day.
The doctor may also use a brace or splint to reduce motion of the ankle. Anti-inflammatory pain medications may be prescribed to help reduce pain and control inflammation.
You may need to use an ankle brace or wrap to support and protect your ankle during sports activities. Avoid pivoting and twisting movements for 2-3 weeks.
To prevent further ankle sprains or re-injury, you may need to wear a lace-up ankle brace, special ankle wraps, and high-top tennis shoes. A program of ankle exercises will also help to prevent re-injury by improving strength and flexibility of the ankle joint.