Ankle sprains are one of the most common injuries among foot and ankle patients. It is estimated that 25,000 people in the US have an ankle sprain every day. Unlike many of the injuries treated at Performance Footcare, athletes and non-athletes alike experience ankle sprains.

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What is an Ankle Sprain?

An ankle sprain occurs when the foot twist, rolls over, or turns beyond normal range motion. The most common mechanism of injury is an inversion sprain where the foot rolls in toward the body over the ankle, spraining the ligaments on the outside of the ankle. This can result in injury to the ligaments that hold the ankle bones and joint in position. This can lead to either stretching or tearing of the ankle ligaments.

Ankle sprains are typically graded by degree of ligament damage: 1, 2, or 3. Grade 1 consists of stretching and mild damage of the ligament. Grade 2 involve partial tearing of the ligament. Grade 3 sprains involve complete tear of the ligament. Grade 3 injuries can lead to severe instability.

What are the Symptoms of an Ankle Sprain?

Pain is noted over the area of ankle ligament injury. Patients can note swelling, warmth, and possible bruising over the injured area as well.

How is an Ankle Sprain Diagnosed?

Ankle sprains can usually be diagnosed with a history and physical. X-rays are performed to confirm that there is no injury to the bone. A sonogram evaluation of the ankle ligaments may be necessary to determine the extent of ligament damage. Finally, an MRI scan may be needed if conservative treatment fails to heal the injury is a regular amount of time. An MRI can be used to diagnose injury to the joint surface, severe injury to the ligaments, or a possible small bone chip.

How Do You Treat an Ankle Sprain?

Most mild ankle sprains (grade 1) usually resolve with RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation).

Moderate ankle sprains are treated with RICE, decreased standing and walking on the affected foot, NSAIDs, physical therapy, range of motions and strengthening exercises, and a protective support/ankle brace/or boot.

Severe ankle sprains are treated with RICE, a walking boot or below the knee cast for 4-6 weeks, physical therapy, strengthening and range of motion exercises. If conservative treatment fails in athletic patient, surgical repair of the ankle ligaments by Dr. Butts may be warranted.

How Do I Prevent Future Ankle Sprains?

The strongest predictor to having a future ankle sprain is a history of a past ankle sprain. The best ways to prevent another ankle sprain are straightforward:

  • Wear good shoes. Avoid shoes don’t provide ankle stability. Pointed heels are unstable.
  • Pay attention to walking, running, and working surfaces.
  • Warm-up before any exercise activities.
  • Slow down when you feel fatigued or pain. Performance under fatigue can lead to improper form and injury.

Exercises for a Sprained Ankle

Flexion Extension

  • 3 sets of 20.
  • 3 times per day. Continue RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation).

Spell Alphabet

Spell the alphabet with the affected ankle using the big toe as the pen. Perform 3 times daily.

Heel Raises

  • Begin at week 2-3 depending on severity.
  • Slowly raise heels off the ground and lower back.
  • 20 raises 3 times. Perform 3 times a day.

Ankle Balance Exercise

  • Start at week 3-4 post-injury.
  • Balance on effected foot for 30 seconds.