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Ankle Injuries: Causes and Treatments

Are There Different Signs for Different Ankle Injuries?

The symptoms of a sprain and of a fracture are very similar. In fact, fractures can sometimes be mistaken for sprains. That's why it's important to have an ankle injury evaluated by a doctor as soon as possible. The signs include:

  • Pain, often sudden and severe
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Inability to walk or bear weight on the injured joint

With a sprain, the ankle may also be stiff.  With a fracture the area will be tender to the touch, and the ankle may also look deformed or out of place.

If the sprain is mild, the swelling and pain may be slight. But with a severe sprain, there is much swelling and the pain is typically intense.

Tendinitis and acute tears of the peroneal tendon result in both pain and swelling. In addition, the ankle area will feel warm to the touch with tendinitis. With an acute tear, there will be a weakness or instability of the foot and ankle.

Tendinosis may take years to develop. Symptoms include:

  • Sporadic pain on the outside of the ankle
  • Weakness or instability in the ankle
  • An increase in the height of the foot's arch

With the subluxation you will notice ankle instability or weakness. You also may notice sporadic pain behind the outside ankle bone and a "snapping" feeling around the ankle bone.

What Should Someone Do After an Ankle Injury?

You can apply first aid for an ankle injury by remembering R.I.C.E: rest, ice, compression, elevation.

  • Rest. It's important to rest the ankle to prevent  further damage and keep weight off of it.
  • Ice. Using ice will help slow or reduce the swelling and provide a numbing sensation that will ease the pain. Proper icing includes icing within 48 hours of an injury, never leave ice on for longer than 15 minutes to 20 minutes at a time to prevent frostbite. Wait 40 minutes to 45 minutes before applying ice again to allow tissues to return to normal temperature and sensation, and repeat as needed. You can apply an ice compress using a plastic freezer bag filled with ice cubes and water to mold to your ankle or use a frozen bag of veggies like corn or peas, (don’t eat them after you use them and refreeze them), use a layer of towel between your skin and the plastic bag.
  • Compression. Wrapping the injured ankle with an elastic bandage or off-the-shelf compression wrap will help keep it immobile and supported. Be sure not to wrap the ankle too tightly.  If your toes that turn blue, get cold or lose sensation the wrap is too tight. 
  • Elevate. Elevating the injured ankle to at least the level of your heart will reduce swelling and pain.

It is important not to put any weight on the ankle until after it's been evaluated by a doctor, which should be done as soon as possible. Fractures and sprains that are ignored or aren't treated properly can lead to long-term chronic problems with the ankle, such as repeated injury, ankle weakness, and arthritis.

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