Ankle Sprain: Causes and Treatments

Ankle Sprain: Causes and Treatments
Image Credit: Mount Sinai Medical Center 

“To keep the body in good health is a duty…otherwise we shall not be able to keep the mind strong and clear.”- Buddha

Article Authors: Gordon Slater| Tandose Sambo 

What causes an ankle sprain? 

The ankle joint is a system of bones that are bound by muscles and ligaments. The ankle enables bodily support and mobility. When the ankle ligaments are injured, the condition is known as an ankle sprain. The ankle has a limited range of motion, and when you twist or turn the ankle beyond its limitations, you can either stretch or tear the ligaments. The ligaments can be viewed as elastic fibres, and they enable the ankle joint to stay stable. 

Physical activity such as gymnastics, dance, or any other sporting activity requires the extensive use of the feet and ankles. During certain maneuvers the ankles can be overexerted and a sprain can result. 

Your orthopaedic specialist will be best able to diagnose if you have a sprained ankle. Seek consultation if you have an injury. Once the appropriate classification of your condition is determined, an ideal treatment plan can be prepared for you that may cover a series of weeks or months. As an acute injury, ankle sprains are often treatable without the need for surgical procedures. 

Symptoms of ankle sprain

Once the ankle sprain is induced by physical activity, you may experience some swelling or bruising as well as discomfort around the site. Within the joint there are other materials that sustain the joint. These include tendons, cartilage and blood vessels. If there’s excessive damage to the joint, they can be damaged and will have to be restored during healing. Symptoms of an ankle sprain include[1]: 

  • swelling
  • tenderness
  • bruising
  • pain
  • inability to put weight on the affected ankle
  • skin discoloration
  • stiffness

During your orthopaedic consultation, discuss all your symptoms with your doctor. After the initial discussion, a physical exam will be conducted by your doctor. The check will analyze your range of motion, and will often involve imaging tests to confirm the root causes of your symptoms. These image tests include X-rays and MRI. With a proper view of the internals of your ankle, your doctor will confirm if you have a sprain or a fracture. 

How are ankle sprains treated? 

An acute ankle sprain is treatable at home with items you can source at your local pharmacy. Home treatments can include:

  1. Application of the RICE method. This method involves rest, ice, compression and elevation of the feet. As you relieve the feet of weight, the ligaments have a chance to heal. 
  2. Bandage the area with an elastic bandage. This enables the ankle to be braced as you recover. 
  3. Utilize a plastic foot brace, or crutches if they are prescribed. 
  4. Take painkillers if you feel any discomfort. They can be purchased over the counter. 

Your orthopaedic specialist will outline the appropriate course of action to be taken for treatment. A mild sprain can heal in as little as two weeks, while more severe sprains may take a few months for you to recover. 

Surgical procedures for Ankle Sprain 

The majority of ankle sprains are healed by at-home remedies or minimally invasive procedures. Surgery is rarely required for the treatment of ankle sprains. If ligament damage is severe, or the joint is unstable, surgical intervention will be required. In some instances, prolonged at home treatment of an acute case may not result in healing. In such scenarios, patients are often treated by surgical processes such as arthroscopy or ankle reconstruction. The required procedure will be according to the severity of the damage from the ankle sprain. Post surgical treatments will facilitate your recovery and often incorporate physical therapy. Within a few weeks after surgery, you may resume normal activities. 

Your orthopaedic surgeon will advise you on the best treatment path that will enable you to fully recover. Prevention is better than cure, so ensure that you take as much precaution as you can in your physical activities. If you protect your feet with proper footwear and take precaution during sports, you may not have to experience an ankle sprain. 



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Dr. Gordon Slater

Dr. Slater is one of the first foot and ankle surgeons in Australia to adopt minimally invasive surgical techniques. He routinely uses MIS to treat a range of conditions, including bunions.

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Dr Gordon Slater is a highly-skilled surgeon specialising in foot and ankle conditions and sports injuries. Dr Slater is one of the first foot and ankle surgeons in Australia to adopt minimally invasive surgical techniques. He routinely uses MIS to treat a range of conditions, including bunions. MIS  has many advantages including shorter operating times, reduced post-operative pain, reduced risk of infection, minimal scarring and better cosmetic outcomes.

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