Ankle sprains are common injuries that can cause pain, discomfort, and limited mobility. Whether you're an athlete or simply going about your daily activities, a misstep or awkward twist can result in a sprained ankle. 

Although ankle sprains may not be as serious as broken ones, they should be given immediate attention and care. At Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists, we understand the impact ankle sprains can have on your daily life. Our experienced team of healthcare professionals is dedicated to providing comprehensive care and treatment for ankle sprains. 

Don't let an ankle sprain hold you back - contact Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists for expert care.

What is Ankle Sprain?

An ankle sprain occurs when the ligaments that connect the bones in the ankle joint become overstretched or torn. This typically happens due to sudden movements that force the ankle joint beyond its normal range of motion. Common causes include uneven surfaces, sports-related activities, or simply stepping off a curb.

Types of Ankle Sprains

Ankle sprains can be classified into three grades based on their severity:

  • Grade 1: Mild sprain with slight stretching or small tears in the ankle ligaments.
  • Grade 2: Moderate sprain with partial tears in the ankle ligaments.
  • Grade 3: Severe sprain with complete tears in the ankle ligaments.

Common Cause of Ankle Sprains

Ankle sprains can happen to anyone, but certain factors increase the risk. Common causes include:

  • Walking or running on uneven surfaces.
  • Participating in sports or physical activities that involve quick direction changes or jumping.
  • Wearing inappropriate or ill-fitting footwear.
  • Previous ankle injuries or instability.

Symptoms of Ankle Sprains

The symptoms of an ankle sprain may vary in severity, but they typically include:

  • Pain, tenderness, and swelling around the ankle joint.
  • Bruising or discoloration of the skin.
  • Difficulty walking or bearing weight on the affected ankle.
  • Stiffness and limited range of motion.

How to Diagnose Ankle Sprains?

To diagnose an ankle sprain, a healthcare professional will perform a physical examination and assess your medical history. They may also order imaging tests, such as X-rays or an MRI, to rule out any fractures or other injuries.

Risk Factors of Ankle Sprains

Risk factors for ankle sprains include:

  • Poor physical condition: Having poor strength or flexibility in the ankles increases the risk of spraining them during sports or physical activities. 

  • Height, weight, and body mass index (BMI): Some studies suggest that higher weight and BMI can be risk factors for sprained ankles, particularly in male athletes.
  • Limb dominance: The literature debates whether limb dominance (preferential use of one limb over the other) contributes to the risk of a sprained ankle. More research is needed to establish a conclusive relationship.
  • Ankle-joint laxity: Excessive looseness or instability in the may increase the risk of sprains. However, the role of ankle-joint laxity as a risk factor is not well-defined. 
  • Previous ankle-joint injury: If sprained your ankle in the past, you are more susceptible to future ankle sprains due to weakened ligaments and residual instability.  

  • Muscle strength and balance: Weakness in the muscles surrounding the joint and poor dynamic balance can contribute to ankle instability and increase the risk of sprains. 

  • Intrinsic factors: Age, gender, height, and body composition can influence an individual's susceptibility to sprained ankle. However, these factors are not preventable.  

  • Extrinsic factors: Playing surface, shoe type, level of competition, and ankle tape or brace can also affect the risk of sprained ankle.  

Ankle Sprain Treatment

The treatment for ankle sprain depends on the severity of the ankle injury. 

Home Treatment

Common treatment options include:

  • Resting and avoiding activities that exacerbate the pain.
  • Ice therapy to reduce pain swelling, and inflammation.
  • Compression using an elastic bandage or brace to provide support.
  • Elevating the affected ankle to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Taking over-the-counter pain relievers to alleviate discomfort. 

Medical Treatment

A healthcare professional may recommend physical therapy or immobilization with a cast or walking boot in a more severely sprained ankle. Surgery is rarely required but may be necessary for severe ligament tears or chronic ankle instability.

How To Prevent Ankle Sprains?

Preventing ankle sprains involves taking proactive measures, such as:

  • Wear appropriate footwear that provides stability and support.
  • Strengthening the muscles around the ankle through exercises and balance training.
  • Being cautious when walking or exercising on uneven surfaces.
  • Gradually increasing the intensity and duration of physical activities to avoid overexertion.

When To Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if:

  • It's severe or a grade 2/3 sprain.

  • Pain persists despite home remedies.

  • You can't bear weight or have trouble walking.
  • It's a recurring ankle injury, or you have concerns about other injuries.
  • You can’t walk, or you have severe pain

Get Your Expert Care at Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists

Ankle sprains are common injuries that can cause pain and limited mobility. It is important to seek immediate attention and care for ankle sprains, as they can significantly impact your daily life. By understanding the causes, types, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options if you sprain your ankle, you can take proactive measures to prevent these injuries and promote a speedy recovery.

At Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists, we specialize in providing comprehensive care and treatment for ankle sprains. Our experienced team of healthcare professionals understands the challenges sprained ankles can pose and is dedicated to helping patients recover and regain mobility. We offer accurate diagnosis, personalized treatment plans, and expert care to ensure the best possible outcomes for our patients.

Don't let an ankle sprain prevent you from enjoying life to the fullest. Contact Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists today to schedule an appointment or consultation with one of our specialists. 

Our team is here to provide the expertise and support you need to overcome ankle sprains and get back on your feet.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do sprained ankles heal on their own?

Sprained ankles can often heal on their own with proper care and time. Mild to moderate sprains may take a few weeks to heal, while more severe sprains may require several months for complete recovery. It's important to follow proper self-care measures and consult with a healthcare professional for guidance.

Can I walk on a sprained ankle?

The ability to walk on a sprained ankle depends on the severity of the ankle injury. With mild sprains, individuals may be able to bear some weight on the affected ankle. However, for moderate to severe ankle sprains, it is generally recommended to avoid walking or putting weight on the injured ankle initially and use crutches or other assistive devices to aid mobility. It is crucial to listen to your body and seek medical advice for proper guidance.

How long will my sprained ankle be swollen?

Swelling is a common symptom of a sprained ankle and can vary in duration. In most cases, mild to moderate swelling resolves within a few weeks as the ligament heals. However, severe sprains may result in prolonged swelling that can last several months. Elevating the foot, applying ice packs, and following your healthcare professional's recommendations can help reduce the swelling and promote healing.

Who is affected by ankle sprains?

Ankle sprains can affect people of all ages and are common among athletes and individuals who engage in physical activities. However, they can also occur during everyday tasks or while walking on uneven surfaces. Practicing preventive measures, such as wearing suitable footwear and being cautious in physically demanding situations, can help reduce the risk of sprained ankles for everyone.

How long does it take to recover from an ankle sprain?

The recovery time for a sprained ankle depends on the severity of the injury. Mild sprains may heal within a few weeks, while more severe ankle sprains may take several months to recover completely.

Do I need physical therapy after an ankle sprain?

Physical therapy may be recommended after an ankle sprain to aid in regaining strength and mobility. It is especially common for athletes and can help facilitate a safe return to sports. Research supports the importance of physical therapy in the healing process.

What is Chronic ankle instability?

Chronic ankle instability is a condition where the ankle experiences recurring episodes of instability and giving way. It can result from inadequate healing or rehabilitation after an ankle sprain. Symptoms include frequent sprains, pain, swelling, and a feeling of instability. Treatment involves exercises, balance training, and sometimes surgery.