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Pain Management Health Center

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Ankle Sprain

Ankle Sprain Overview

The ankle joint, which connects the foot with the lower leg, is injured often. An unnatural twisting motion can happen when the foot is planted awkwardly, when the ground is uneven, or when an unusual amount of force is applied to the joint. Such injuries to the ligaments or tendons of the ankle happen during athletic events, while running or walking, or even doing something as simple as getting out of bed.

Ankle injuries can be painful and can make it hard to carry out your daily activities.

Ankle Sprain Causes

Ligaments, which provide the connection between the bones of the ankle, are injured when more than normal stretching force is applied to them. This happens most commonly when the foot is turned inward or inverted. This kind of injury can happen in the following ways:

  • Awkwardly planting the foot when running, stepping up or down, or during simple tasks such as getting out of bed
  • Stepping on a surface that is irregular, such as stepping in a hole
  • One player stepping on another during an athletic event (A common example is a basketball player who goes up for a rebound and comes down on top of another player’s foot. This can cause the rebounder’s foot to roll inward.)

Ankle Sprain Symptoms

When an ankle is injured with a sprain, tendon injury, or fracture, inflammation occurs. Blood vessels become "leaky" and allow fluid to ooze into the soft tissue surrounding the joint. White blood cells responsible for inflammation migrate to the area, and blood flow increases as well. Typical changes that happen with inflammation, include the following:

  • Swelling because of increased fluid in the tissue: Sometimes the swelling is so severe that you can leave an indentation in the swollen area by pressing on it with your finger.
  • Pain because the nerves are more sensitive: The joint hurts and may throb. You can often make the pain worse by pressing on the sore area, by moving the foot in certain directions (depending upon which ligament is involved), or by walking or standing.
  • Redness and warmth caused by increased blood flow to the area.
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