An ankle sprain is an injury to one or more ligaments in the ankle, usually on the outside of the ankle. Ligaments are bands of tissue, like rubber bands, that connect one bone to another and bind the joints together. In your ankle, ligaments provide stability by limiting side-to-side movement. Ankle sprains can be mild or more severe, depending on how many ligaments were injured and whether the ligaments were stretched, partially torn, or even completely torn. Ankle sprains are not the same as strains, which affect muscles rather than ligaments.
Sprained ankles often result from a fall, a sudden twist, or a blow that forces the ankle joint out of its normal position. Such injuries are common in sports; they can also occur because of inappropriately-fitted or worn out shoes and walking or running on an uneven surface. Weak ankles, a condition that some people are born with, can also lead to sprains, as can previous ankle or foot injuries which left the ankle in a weakened state.
The signs and symptoms of ankle sprains may include pain or soreness in the ankle, swelling, bruising, difficulty walking, or stiffness in the joint. Depending on how severe the sprain is, the symptoms may be mild or quite intense. It’s not uncommon for ankle sprains to cause no pain, instead leaving the ankle feeling wobbly and unsteady, especially if the ankle has been sprained before.
Whether or not an ankle sprain causes pain or swelling, it is important to get prompt medical attention. If you think you’ve sprained your ankle, schedule an appointment at Bay Area Foot Care as soon as possible. In the meantime, take good care of the ankle using the RICE method (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) to help reduce swelling, pain, and further injury.
The four primary reasons to get your ankle sprain checked out by your podiatrist promptly are:
- An untreated ankle sprain can develop into chronic ankle instability, a condition marked by persistent discomfort and weakness in the ankle and leg.
- An ankle sprain may not be the only cause of pain in the leg; people can sometimes miss serious bone fractures because they assumed their pain was simply an ankle sprain. Such fractures can lead to troubling complications if left untreated.
- An ankle sprain may be masking another foot injury that causes discomfort but no pain.
- A sprained ankle that isn’t treated properly right away can heal more slowly or improperly, leaving behind weak ankles that will sprain easily again.