So, you’re running on the beach, playing a sport, or you just simply stepped off a curb wrong – your ankle rolls, you start to feel the pain immediately, a few minutes later it starts swelling up like a balloon, and if it’s serious enough you’ll even notice some bruising later on. Ankle sprains are not a pleasant experience at all and treatment should be taken seriously.
Ankle sprains are very common and affect one or more of the ligaments surrounding the ankle. Ligaments are bands of tissue that connect one bone to another and bind the joints together. Usually, the ligaments on the outside of the ankle are affected during an ankle sprain but any ligament around the ankle can be damaged. Just to avoid any confusion, sprains are not the same as strains which affect muscles instead of ligaments.
Some sprains can be mild, but some can be severe and extremely painful. The severity of an ankle sprain depends on how much damage is done to the ligament - stretched, partially torn, or completely torn - and how many ligaments are involved.
If not treated properly, repetitive ankle sprains can lead to chronic ankle instability, which is a feeling of weakness and a giving way of the ankle. In some cases, ankle sprains can simultaneously happen with an ankle fracture. If you have any doubt in your mind that you may have a fracture it’s best not to wait, make an appointment with your local foot and ankle doctor or go to an urgent care.
Treatment for ankle sprains should begin immediately after they happen and can range from home remedies (remember RICE? – Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) to being put in a walking boot. For those who are repeatedly spraining, your foot and ankle doctor may even recommend more aggressive treatment such as surgery.