What is an ankle sprain?
An ankle sprain is an injury to one or more ligaments in your ankle. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that connect one bone to another to form the joints. Your ankle has many bones, muscles, and ligaments that attach your foot to your leg. When a ligament is injured, it can be stretched, partially torn, or completely torn.
What is the cause?
A sprain is caused by a sudden activity that twists your ankle, like tripping on the stairs or falling during a sporting event.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms may include:
- Swelling and bruising
- Trouble using or moving your ankle
How is it diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms, activities, and medical history and examine you. You may have X-rays or other scans.
How it is treated?
You will need to change or stop doing the activities that cause pain until the ligament has healed. Your healthcare provider may recommend stretching and strengthening exercises to help you heal. Use an elastic bandage or an ankle brace as directed by your provider. You may need to use crutches until you can walk without pain. If your ankle ligaments are completely torn, you may need surgery. After surgery your ankle will be in a cast for 4 to 8 weeks.
The pain often gets better within a few weeks with self-care, but some injuries may take several months or longer to heal. It’s important to follow all of your healthcare provider’s instructions.
How can I take care of myself?
To reduce swelling and pain for the first few days after the injury:
- Put an ice pack, gel pack, or package of frozen vegetable wrapped in a cloth on the injured area every 3 to 4 hours for up to 20 minutes at a time.
- Keep your foot up on pillows when you sit or lie down.
- Take pain medicine, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or other medicine as directed by your provider. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. These risks increase with age. Read the label and take as directed. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, you should not take this medicine for more than 10 days.
Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions, including any exercises recommended by your provider. Ask your provider:
- How and when you will hear your test results
- How long it will take to recover
- What activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
- How to take care of yourself at home
- What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them
- Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup.
How can I help prevent an ankle sprain?
Warm-up exercises and stretching before activities can help prevent injuries. Follow safety rules and use any protective equipment recommended for your work or sport. For example, wear the right type of shoes for your activities, and tape your ankle or wear a brace for strenuous sports, especially if you have hurt your ankle before. Avoid running or playing on uneven surfaces.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2014.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2013-09-12
Last reviewed: 2012-08-17
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional. References
Pediatric Advisor 2014.1 Index
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