Your ankle is a mechanical marvel. It’s a complex network of ligaments, tendons, muscles and bones that work together so you can walk and run smoothly. The joint operates like a hinge that can withstand 1.5 times your body weight when you’re walking, and up to eight times your body weight when running.
Ankle sprain occurs when one or more of the stabilizing ligaments-- bands of strong, elastic tissue that supports your ankle joint and limits its range of motion -- are stretched beyond their limits and may be partially or completely torn. The ligaments on the outside of the ankle are sprained the most frequently, which is known as a lateral ankle sprain.
Nearly half of all ankle sprains occur during athletic activity. Sports that involve jumping and twisting can be especially hard on the ankle, such as soccer, football, running, tennis and basketball. Ankle sprains can also result from falling or walking on an uneven surface, which can cause the foot to twist unexpectedly.
Thinking “it’s just a sprain,” many people with ankle injuries don’t seek treatment. But it’s important to see a foot doctor who can evaluate the severity of your injury, especially if your ankle is very swollen and difficult to walk on.
Your OINJ orthopedic foot doctor will examine your foot and ankle and conduct noninvasive function tests to assess your ankle range of motion. Your foot doctor will also gently press on your ankle to determine which ligaments are injured. Your OINJ doctor may also check to see if your ankle can bear weight.
Most ankle sprains are minor injuries that will heal within two weeks, with rest and ice to keep the swelling down and anti-inflammatory medication. In the early stages, you’ll also want to elevate your ankle above the level of your heart to help minimize swelling. After an initial period of rest, your OINJ foot doctor may recommend wearing an elastic bandage or lace-up bracing to help minimize swelling, prevent reinjury and minimize ankle and foot pain as you begin walking again.
Once you can bear weight on your ankle without swelling or pain, your OINJ foot doctor may recommend exercises to strengthen the muscles and tendons of the front and back of the leg and foot, such as toe raises.
Some people can continue to have pain related to their ankle sprain for a year or longer, in addition to ankle weakness, swelling and stiffness. If your ankle continues to be unstable, surgery may be needed to repair or replace a damaged ligament.