Have you ever twisted or rolled your ankle before? Well, if you have you’ll know how painful it can be. It’s a common injury to see at a podiatry office so this is why I’d like to focus on understanding what an ankle sprain is and ways to prevent these injuries from happening to you!

What is an ankle sprain?

An ankle sprain occurs when there is a tear in one or more of the ankle ligaments. Ligaments are strong fibers that attach from one bone to another and give extra support to joints. The most severe sprains can actually end up causing fractures to either of the lower leg bones (tibia or fibula).

What type of ankle sprain do I have?

There are 3 different types of ankle sprains: inversion, eversion and a high ankle sprain. More than 90% of the time we see inversion ankle sprains, which are found on the outside of the ankle joint. This is because they tend to undergo large stresses during physical activity, especially sports with lateral movement like basketball and tennis. However, eversion sprains are possible and cause pain on the inside of the ankle and less frequently high sprains to the syndesmotic ligaments higher up the lower leg on the outside of the ankle region.

What are the symptoms?

These injuries are graded 1 through 3 based on the severity of the sprain and the ability of the patient to weight bear after the injury. Often there is pain, bruising and swelling in the ankle region. If you are able to walk right away with minimal pain and swelling most likely a grade 1 microtear took place. A grade 2 is a partial tear and grade 3, a full tear. Based on the physical exam by your foot specialist they can often determine the grade clinically.

What should I expect during my podiatry exam?

To start, your chiropodist or podiatrist will go over a thorough history in order to understand what took place during the injury. This gives them important information to determine which ligaments were most likely damaged. Next a physical exam and series of special tests will be performed to assess the ankle structure. This should include range of motion, muscle strength and stress testing of the ankle and surrounding area.

What are my treatment options?

When it comes to sprains, immediate treatment is very important. This is to make sure you don’t have a prolonged recovery. Icing for the first few days will be helpful in reducing swelling and you may also choose to wear a tensor bandage with slight compression. In more serious cases, an aircast boot may be necessary to immobilize the joint to allow for healing.

If you know you’re prone to ankle sprains or have ankle instability, strengthening your peroneal muscles is key to prevention of further injury. Daily exercise and strengthening may help improve your instability. Wearing ankle boots or an ankle brace can also add extra support to a weakened ankle. Speak with your foot specialist to go over other options and to monitor your recovery.