What is an ankle sprain?
Most people have twisted
an ankle at some point in their life. But if your ankle gets swollen and
painful after you twist it, you have most likely sprained it. This means you
have stretched and possibly torn the
ligaments in your ankle. See a picture of an
ankle sprain .
Even though ankle sprains are common, they are not
always minor injuries. Some people with repeated or severe sprains can develop
long-term joint pain and weakness. Treating a sprained ankle can help prevent
ongoing ankle problems.
What causes ankle sprains?
Most ankle sprains
happen when you make a rapid shifting movement with your foot planted, such as
when you play soccer or get tackled in football. Often the ankle rolls outward
and the foot turns inward. This causes the ligaments on the outside of the
ankle to stretch and tear. Less often, the ankle rolls inward and the foot
turns outward. This damages the ligaments on the inside of the ankle. See a
picture of the different
types of ankle sprains .
An ankle sprain can range from mild to
severe, depending on how badly the ligament is damaged and how many ligaments
are injured. With a mild sprain, the ankle may be tender, swollen, and stiff.
But it usually feels stable, and you can walk with little pain. A more serious
sprain might include bruising and tenderness around the ankle, and walking is
painful. In a severe ankle sprain, the ankle is unstable and may feel "wobbly."
You can't walk, because the ankle gives out and may be very painful. See a
picture of an
ankle sprain .
What are the symptoms?
With most sprains, you
feel pain right away at the site of the tear. Often the ankle starts to
swell immediately and may bruise . The ankle area is usually tender to touch,
and it hurts to move it.
In more severe sprains, you may hear
and/or feel something tear, along with a pop or snap. You will probably have
extreme pain at first and will not be able to walk or even put weight on your
foot. Usually, the more pain and swelling you have, the more severe your ankle
sprain is and the longer it will take to heal.
How is an ankle sprain diagnosed?
Your doctor will
ask you how the injury occurred and if you have hurt your ankle before. He or
she will check your foot and ankle, your lower leg, and even your knee to see
if you are hurt anywhere else.
If the sprain is mild, your doctor
may not order
X-rays. But with more severe sprains, you may need
X-rays to rule out a broken bone in the ankle or the foot. It is possible to
break a bone in your foot or ankle at the same time as a sprain.