What Is an Ankle Sprain?
An ankle sprain is an injury to one or more ligaments in the ankle, usually on the outside of the ankle. Ligaments are thick bands of connective tissue that connect one bone to another. There are numerous ligaments supporting the ankle joint, and a sprain may affect an individual or multiple ligaments. A sprain may involve a simple stretched ligament, or a more significant partial or even complete tear of a ligament.
Sprained ankles are usually the result of a roll or twist of the ankle,commonly while running, wearing poor shoegear, or running or walking on an uneven surface. Previous sprains also tend to predispose a person to future sprains.
The symptoms of an ankle sprain may include pain around the ankle joint, bruising, difficulty walking, and joint stiffness.
These symptoms may vary in intensity, depending on the severity of the sprain. Sometimes pain and swelling are absent in people with previous ankle sprains. Instead, they may simply feel the ankle is wobbly and unsteady when they walk. Even if there is no pain or swelling with a sprained ankle, treatment is crucial. Any ankle sprain – whether it’s your first or your fifth – requires prompt medical attention.
Proper diagnosis of an ankle sprain is essential, as an untreated sprain may lead to chronic ankle instability with persistent discomfort and weakness around the ankle joint. Occasionally an ankle fracture may also occur, and if left untreated this could lead to serious complications. Proper rehabilitation from a sprain is essential to a speedy recovery.
In evaluating your injury, the foot and ankle surgeon will obtain a thorough history of your symptoms and examine your foot. X-rays or other advanced imaging studies may be ordered to help determine the severity of the injury.
Prompt conservative management of an ankle sprain is essential to recovery. This usually includes a period of rest, icing, compression, elevation, early physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medication.
When Is Surgery Needed?
In very severe cases, or cases of chronic ankle instability which have not responded to conservative measures, surgical intervention may be a viable option to either re-attach or tighten the ankle ligaments.