Ankle sprains are likely the most common traumatic injuries affecting the feet and ankles. By some estimates, there may be as many as 2 million such injuries in the United States each year.

Sprains are usually the result of a sudden, accidental roll or twist in the ankle that forces the joint to extend beyond its normal range of motion. This causes one or more of the ligaments that hold and support the ankle to stretch or tear.

While many of the mildest sprains can be treated at home, the wisest course of action is always to seek out a foot and ankle expert for evaluation and care. Without proper treatment, even relatively mild ankle sprains can fail to heal properly, resulting in persistent weakness and instability in the joint and a greater risk of future sprains.

What Are the Symptoms of an Ankle Sprain?

The symptoms of a sprain can vary significantly depending on which ligament(s) have been damaged, and how severely they have been damaged. Sprains are usually categorized as Grade I, II, or III depending on severity and common symptoms:

  • Grade I: Ligaments are stretched but not torn. Mild swelling, stiffness, and tenderness are common symptoms. The ankle usually feels “stable,” but walking may produce mild to moderate discomfort.
  • Grade II: At least one incomplete tear in a ligament. Pain, swelling, and tenderness are more pronounced, and there’s usually bruising as well. Bearing weight is painful, as is touching the injured area.
  • Grade III: A complete rupture of at least one ligament has occurred. Pain, swelling, and bruising can be severe. The ankle feels very unstable, and bearing weight is impossible.

Remember that, while a Grade III sprain is obviously a much more severe injury than a Grade I sprain, that does not mean you should underestimate the milder form of the injury. Grade I sprains can cause long-term damage if they are not treated properly, so always call our office if you suspect any kind of ankle injury.

    ankle sprains
    ankle sprains

    Ankle Sprain First Aid

    If you believe you may have sprained your ankle, stop what you are doing and avoid putting weight on your injured foot—even if it feels stable.

    As soon as possible, call our office to schedule an appointment. In the meantime, immediately begin RICE therapy and continue for the first 36-48 hours following the injury:

    • R is for REST: Avoid activities that could aggravate the injury. Try to avoid putting weight on the foot altogether, if possible.
    • I is for ICE: Use an ice pack on the ankle for up to 30 minutes at a time, several times throughout the day. Always remember to wrap the ice in a thin towel to avoid damaging your skin.
    • C is for COMPRESSION: Use a sports wrap, brace, or other compression dressings to protect the ankle and ease swelling, provided you know how to use them safely.
    • E is for ELEVATION: Keep the ankle elevated, ideally above chest level, while you are sitting or lying down.

    Ankle Sprain Treatment and Follow-Up

    As with any foot or ankle injury, we will always take the necessary time to fully evaluate your condition before recommending a personalized treatment plan tailored to meet your specific needs.

    Mild sprains can often be treated at home, using RICE therapy followed by a program of stretching and exercises designed to restore strength and mobility to the ankle. Even when home care is recommended, it’s still important to get a professional evaluation and have an expert helping to guide your care. You don’t want to risk accidentally making your injury worse.

    More serious sprains may require bracing the ankle, or even immobilization via a walking boot or cast, along with crutches. In rare cases, surgery might be recommended to repair a severely damaged ligament, or an ankle that has become chronically unstable due to repeated sprains.

    We will also provide you with whatever advice or care you need to reduce your risk of future sprains. This may include exercise recommendations, footwear recommendations, custom orthotics, and other preventative measures.

    New Bern’s Foot and Ankle Sports Injury Expert

    We understand that active individuals often hesitate to seek medical care for injuries, particularly if they feel like they can “walk it off” or still play through the pain. Unfortunately, this often will only lead to longer-lasting, more serious pain that keeps you out of the game for longer.

    Any ankle sprain of any severity is a serious injury that must be treated appropriately, so please do not hesitate to call the team at InStride Crystal Coast Podiatry if you experience any pain or instability after rolling or twisting an ankle. You can reach us at (252) 638-4700, or by completing our contact form.