Table of Contents
A sprained ankle is a frequently seen injury that happens when the ligaments in the ankle are overstretched or torn, usually due to a fall or rolling or twisting of the ankle. Most sprains will heal naturally, but it’s important to undergo treatment that focuses on strengthening the affected muscles in order to prevent future sprains.
What is a sprained ankle?
A sprained ankle is a prevalent injury that occurs when the ligaments, which connect and provide support to the ankle bones, are torn or stretched beyond their normal capacity. This often happens after a fall, rolling, or twisting of the ankle.
What are the types of ankle sprains?
Ankle sprains are classified into three types based on the extent of ligament damage:
Grade 1 (Mild): The ligament fibres experience slight stretching or a small tear. The ankle will exhibit mild swelling and tenderness when touched.
Grade 2 (Moderate): The ligament is torn partially, but not completely. Swelling is present around the injured area, and movement causes pain.
Grade 3 (Severe): The ligament is completely torn. The ankle shows significant swelling, the injury is painful, and walking becomes difficult.
Causes of a sprained ankle
Ankle sprains occur when the ankle is rolled or twisted. The primary causes of ankle sprains include:
- Tripping or falling on uneven surfaces.
- Incorrect landing after a jump.
- Loss of balance.
- Engaging in sports that involve foot rolling or twisting, such as basketball, football, soccer, and tennis.
Symptoms of a sprained ankle
Common symptoms of a sprained ankle include:
- Pain, particularly when bearing weight on the ankle.
- Tenderness when touched.
- Difficulty in walking.
Diagnosing a sprained ankle
A sprained ankle is typically diagnosed through the following steps:
Physical examination: Your healthcare provider will assess your foot and ankle, examining your range of motion and identifying the affected ligaments.
Additional tests: In some cases, imaging tests such as X-rays may be conducted following the physical examination.
By combining the physical examination findings with any relevant imaging results, healthcare providers can make an accurate diagnosis of a sprained ankle.
How long does a sprained ankle take to heal?
The duration of recovery for a sprained ankle varies depending on the severity of the injury. Healing a minor sprain may take approximately two weeks, while a severe sprain may require six to 12 weeks to fully heal.
Treatment for a sprained ankle
The recommended treatment for most ankle sprains involves following the PRICE method during the initial 24-48 hours after the injury. PRICE stands for protection, rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
Protection: Limit the use of the injured ankle by utilising crutches or applying a splint or brace.
Rest: Avoid engaging in physical activities that may strain or stress the sprained ankle, such as running, jumping, or exercising.
Ice: Apply ice or a cold pack wrapped in a towel to the ankle for 20-minute intervals to help reduce swelling.
Compression: Gently wrap the ankle with an elastic bandage to provide compression and reduce swelling.
Elevation: Elevate the ankle above the level of the heart by placing pillows under it while sitting or lying down.
If the sprain causes intense pain, significant swelling, difficulty walking, or applying pressure on the ankle, it is advisable to seek treatment from a healthcare provider.
When to seek medical attention?
It is advisable to consult your healthcare provider if you experience the following after a sprain:
- Inability to walk after the injury.
- Lack of improvement or worsening of swelling and pain 24-48 hours following the sprain.
Q1: What is the most common cause of a sprained ankle?
Ans: The most common cause of a sprained ankle is rolling or twisting the ankle.
Q2: How long does it take for a sprained ankle to heal?
Ans: The recovery time for a sprained ankle varies, ranging from a few weeks for a mild sprain to several months for a severe sprain.
Q3: Can I walk on a sprained ankle?
Ans: Walking on a sprained ankle may be difficult or painful, and it is generally recommended to limit weight-bearing and seek medical evaluation.
Q4: Should I use ice or heat for a sprained ankle?
Ans: Ice is typically recommended during the initial stages of a sprained ankle to reduce swelling, while heat therapy may be beneficial for promoting healing later on.
Q5: Can I prevent future sprained ankles?
Ans: Strengthening the ankle muscles and wearing supportive footwear can help prevent future sprained ankles.