How To Move Without Pain

What's an Ankle Sprain?

by Meghan Griech, PT, DPT, cert MDT, CKTP

This article takes 6 minutes to read

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A sprained ankle occurs when you roll, twist, or turn your ankle in an awkward way. The ligaments of the ankle help with stability and prevent excessive movement.

These ligaments can be strained (or overstretched) when the ankle is twisted or rolled, and usually involve injuries to the ligaments on the outer side of the ankle.

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Ankle sprains can vary in severity depending on the degree of injury to the ligaments. The severity  can be on a spectrum from  simply inflamed, to overstretched with microtears, to being torn completely. Depending on the injury, you could experience anything from simply  pain, to a feeling of instability with walking. 

In more severe circumstances, instability could lead to repeated ankle rolling and potential risks of falls.

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Causes of a sprained ankle might include:

  • An exaggerated ankle twist after a fall or slip
  • Landing awkwardly on your foot after jumping or pivoting
  • Walking or exercising on an uneven surface
  • Another person stepping or landing on your foot during a sports activity

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Signs and symptoms of a sprained ankle vary depending on the severity of the injury. They may include:

  • Pain, especially when you bear weight on the affected foot
  • Tenderness when you touch the ankle
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Restricted range of motion
  • Instability in the ankle
  • Popping sensation or sound at the time of injury

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Factors contributing to ankle sprains include:

    • Environmental conditions. Slippery surfaces, uneven surfaces, or loose ground.
    • Fatigue. Tired muscles are less likely to provide good support for your joints,causing the joints to rely more on the ligaments to support the ankle leading to strained tissues
    • Poor equipment. Poor fitting footwear can contribute to your risk of a sprain as the foot isn’t supported well, which could lead to excessive movements or imbalance.
    • Repetition. Overstretched or injured ligaments are more prone to reinjury. 


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What can you do if you sprain your ankle?

Early self treatment for ankle sprain injuries benefit from PRICE:

P= protection (protect injury from further damage, consider support or splint)

R – rest your injury for 2-3 days and then reintroduce movement gradually.  You may need to use crutches initially to help maintain mobility

I – ice

C = compression (from elastic bandage or brace – but don’t leave this on while you sleep)

E = elevate above the level of your heart

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*Disclaimer: All information in this article is intended for instruction and informational purposes. The author(s) are not responsible for any harm or injury that may result.  This information is used to supplement not replace any advice you were provided from your doctor or another medical health professional.  No guarantees of specific results are expressly made or implied with this article.

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