An ankle sprain is an injury that occurs when you roll, twist or turn your ankle in an uncomfortable way.
Treatment for a sprained ankle depends on the severity of the injury, as the sprain stretches or tears the stiff bands of tissue (ligaments) that help hold the bones of the ankle together.
An ankle sprain occurs when the ankle is forced out of its normal position, which can lead to a sprain, partial or complete tear of one or more ligaments of the ankle.
Causes of ankle sprain can be as follows:
- A fall that causes a sprained ankle.
- Landing awkwardly on the foot after jumping or turning
- Walking or exercising on an uneven surface
- Another person stepping on or landing on your foot while exercising.
Certain people are more likely to sprain their ankles. Women, children, and teenagers tend to have more sprains. You might also be at higher risk if you:
- Play sports, especially on an indoor court
- Have balance problems
- Wear high heels or shoes that don’t fit well
- Have weak or stiff ankles, such as because of a previous injury
For self-treatment of an ankle sprain, use the R.I.C.E. approach for the first two or three days:
- Rest. Avoid activities that cause pain, swelling or discomfort.
- Ice. This is probably the best treatment. Use an ice pack or ice slush bath immediately for 15 to 20 minutes and repeat every two to three hours while you’re awake. If you have vascular disease, diabetes or decreased sensation, talk with your doctor before applying ice.
- Compression. To help stop swelling, compress the ankle with an elastic bandage until the swelling stops. Don’t hinder circulation by wrapping too tightly. Begin wrapping at the end farthest from your heart.
- Elevation. To reduce swelling, elevate your ankle above the level of your heart, especially at night. Gravity helps reduce swelling by draining excess fluid.
Anti-inflammatory pain medications reduce pain and control swelling.
Over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen and naproxen will work for most people.
Check with your doctor first to see if you have any other medical conditions or are taking any other medications.
If the sprain is severe or you don’t feel well after about a week, you may need to see a doctor.
They may give you a brace or cast to keep your ankle immobile.
You can use crutches to lose weight. If you have a severe sprain, consult with your doctor in 1 or 2 weeks to make sure you are healing well and to see if you may need physical therapy to help with flexibility and strength.
A mild to moderate sprain usually does not need surgery.
It may be needed if the sprain is severe or if you are at increased risk of dislocating it again because you play many sports.