Ankle sprains are a widespread injury among athletes and non-athletes alike. It can happen to kids, adolescents, and adults, causing pain and swelling around the ankle joint.
There are varying degrees of ankle sprains, each of which causes pain, swelling, and discomfort. You must seek care for an ankle sprain that limits mobility or doesn't improve after a few days.
Dr. David Deiboldt and the Beltsville Foot and Ankle Center team offer conservative and surgical treatments for foot and ankle conditions, including sprained ankles.
Dr. Deiboldt is an experienced podiatrist who carefully evaluates the sprain and customizes treatment based on your symptoms.
Understanding an ankle sprain
The ankle joint consists of bones and ligaments that keep the joint stable and allow you to walk and move the ankle. The ligaments are powerful and connect bones to other bones in the body.
An ankle sprain happens when one of the many ligaments in the ankle joint tear or stretches beyond its normal range. You can suffer an ankle sprain for various reasons, including:
- Walking on uneven ground
- Tripping or falling
- Playing sports like basketball or soccer
- Stepping off a curb or rolling the ankle
Ankle sprains can lead to instability in the joint and repeat sprains and injuries. Various ankle injuries affect the joint, sometimes leading to chronic instability and trouble walking.
Types of ankle sprains
Ankle sprains happen when one of the main ligaments in your ankle becomes damaged or torn. There are three primary forms of ankle sprains that we grade based on the damage to the ligament, and they include:
A grade 1 ankle sprain is the most minor type of sprain. If you suffer this type of sprain, the ligaments in the ankle stretch past their usual range, and there may be a small tear.
A grade 2 sprain is a moderate injury where the ligaments tear but not entirely through. You have swelling, tenderness, and pain in the affected ankle.
A grade 3 ankle sprain is a severe injury where the ligaments tear entirely. Walking is challenging, and the ankle is very swollen and painful with a grade 3 sprain.
Signs of a problem
Depending on the type of sprain, signs of a sprained ankle vary. Symptoms may be severe, moderate, or mild, lasting several days to several weeks.
A grade 1 sprain will have mild symptoms compared to a severe sprain where the ligaments tear. Some of the typical signs and symptoms of an ankle sprain include the following:
- Difficulty walking
- Tenderness around the joint
- Bruising at the joint
If you think you've sprained your ankle, the first steps are to rest the joint and apply ice. Although an ankle sprain can heal independently, it's best to seek professional help if you're having severe pain.
When to see a doctor for a sprain
Most ankle sprains heal independently with home care, rest, and conservative measures. If you suffer a mild ankle sprain, you should attempt to rest the joint and allow it time to heal.
If you're unsure of how you've injured your ankle, it's always a good idea to see a doctor to prevent further problems. When we diagnose you with an ankle injury, we may recommend the following treatments for mild to moderate injuries:
- Physical therapy
- Ice and rest
- Elevating the ankle
- Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications
Even grade 3 sprains can heal with conservative treatments. Surgery is only necessary if your ankle doesn't improve with traditional measures or you experience extreme instability or pain in the affected ankle.
Mild ankle sprains don't require medical intervention as long as you can rest the joint and swelling goes down within a day. However, seek medical help if you're unsure of the injury or experience significant swelling or pain.
Untreated ankle sprains that don't heal properly can lead to repeat sprains or chronic ankle instability in the joint.
After a sprained ankle, call Beltsville Foot Center at 301-804-1174 to make an appointment for treatment or book a consultation with Dr. Deiboldt online.