Ankle sprains are a common sports injury that can disrupt your athletic goals and leave you sitting on the sidelines. If you are experiencing pain, swelling, and difficulty walking after twisting or rolling your ankle, a sprain could be the source of your symptoms. While this condition typically responds well to conservative care, prompt evaluation and treatment are essential to rule out—or confirm—the need for surgery and prevent complications like chronic ankle issues.
Delaying treatment, continuing to train on an injured ankle, or treating a sprained ankle incorrectly can allow a simple sprain to turn into something more serious. Don't risk it.
Working with an experienced podiatrist can help you recover from your injury and return to activity safely. Keep reading to learn more about ankle sprains and the treatment options available at Grandville Foot and Ankle.
The ankle joint is comprised of the tibia, fibula, and talus bones, and is held together by tough bands of tissue called ligaments. These strong, fibrous bands support and stabilize the joint to guard against excessive, abnormal, and injurious movements.
Sprains happen when one or more of the ligaments supporting the ankle joint are twisted or forced beyond their normal range of motion, causing the affected ligament(s) to stretch or tear. These injuries often happen while you're playing sports or participating in other athletic activities, but can be caused by something as simple as a misstep. Other common causes of ankle sprains include:
- Twisting your ankle
- Rolling your foot or ankle to the side
- Walking or exercising on uneven surfaces
- Having someone step or land on your foot
- Landing awkwardly after a jump or pivot
A sprained ankle can happen to anyone. However, some factors can make you more prone to sustaining this type of injury. These may include:
- Playing sports. Sprained ankles account for nearly a quarter of all reported sports-related injuries. They're particularly common among trail runners and people who enjoy soccer, tennis, football, basketball, volleyball, and other sports that require quick stops and pivots.
- Skipping your warm-up. Jumping right into activity without sufficiently warming up can make your ligaments more likely to stretch or tear, resulting in a sprain.
- Suddenly increasing activity duration or intensity. A harsh change to your sports or exercise routine can leave you vulnerable to injury.
- Wearing the wrong shoes. The shoes you choose can make you more susceptible to spraining your ankle. Footwear that is worn out, fits poorly, fails to provide sufficient support, or is the wrong type of shoe for the sport or activity in question can put your feet and ankles at risk.
- Pushing through fatigue. Stressing and straining your muscles and ligaments at—or near the end—of a game or activity can lead to ankle sprains.
- Having certain physical features or health problems. Foot shape and structural features can play a role in ankle sprains, as can obesity, which places excessive strain on the ankle bones, muscles, and ligaments.
- Having a prior history of ankle injuries. Hurting your ankle makes you much more likely to suffer a similar injury in the future. Returning to activity too soon can also increase the likelihood of repeated sprains.
Signs, Symptoms, and Diagnosis
The symptoms associated with a sprained ankle can vary depending on the severity of the injury. Common signs and symptoms include:
- A loud popping sensation or sound, and sudden pain as the ankle twists or rolls
- Pain and tenderness, especially when touching the ankle or putting weight on the affected foot
- Difficulty standing or walking
- Reduced range of motion
- Ankle instability
Symptoms sound familiar? Our podiatrist, Dr. Sarah Stewart, can perform a thorough examination and take advantage of X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, ultrasounds, and other diagnostic tools to confirm a sprain and rule out other types of ankle injuries.
Treating a Sprained Ankle
Many ankle sprains can be treated using nonsurgical, conservative methods, such as:
- R.I.C.E. Resting a sprained ankle, icing it for up to 20 minutes every two to three hours, wrapping it in a compression bandage, and elevating the injury can aid in healing. This treatment can be done at home for several days after an injury. Consult a professional if pain and other symptoms persist.
- Padding and taping. These simple treatments help provide a sprained ankle with added stability and support.
- Medications. Over-the-counter and prescription medications can be used to relieve and manage the pain from the injury while you wait for it to heal.
- Exercise. Stretching and strengthening exercises—as well as functional exercises that mimic the movements of everyday tasks—can help get you back on your feet and protect your ankle against future injuries.
- Heat. In some cases, warm compresses or a heating pad may be beneficial for a sprained ankle once the swelling has gone down.
- Assistive devices. Custom orthotics, boots, splits, temporary casts, or crutches may be used to immobilize the injured area or help you get around during the recovery process.
If pain and other symptoms continue—or if the sprain resulted in multiple or complete ligament tears—surgery may be required.
Recovering From a Sprained Ankle
The recovery time for ankle sprains depends on the severity—whether the affected ligament(s) are overextended, partially torn, or fully torn. The more severe the injury, the longer your road to recovery. Generally speaking, sprained ankles can take at least a couple of weeks and up to six months to heal completely.
Schedule an Appointment
At Grandville Foot and Ankle, Dr. Sarah Stewart and her team are dedicated to providing the highest quality care for sport-related podiatry problems. Nursing what you suspect is a sprained ankle, and want to avoid complications and ensure proper healing? Contact us today to schedule an appointment with Dr. Stewart.