Ankle sprain

Ankle sprain

What is an ankle sprain?

An ankle sprain means damage or tearing to ligament fibres. The most common ankle sprains involve tearing one or several of the ligaments outside the ankle. This happens most commonly when someone rolls over on their ankle. The outside or lateral part of the ankle joint is supported by three ligaments, which hold onto some of the ankle bones as well as the outer of the shin bones, the fibula. They restrict the sole of the foot pointing too far inwards.

Causes of ankle sprains

The most common cause of ankle sprains is when the foot rolls inwards, which may happen on uneven surfaces. This movement causes the ligaments to be stretched beyond their normal limits, tearing their fibres. A pop is sometimes heard, and pain is usually felt around the outside of the ankle.

Symptoms of ankle sprains

  • Immediate swelling around the ankle and the foot. Then later bruising.
  • Pain to touch ankle area.
  • Loss of ankle movement.
  • Pain putting weight on leg.

Degree of Severity

Ankle sprains can be classified into grades depending on the damage to the structures around the joint. These are usually called grades one, two or three.

Grade 1: Mild pain, little swelling, little to no instability.
Grade 2: Moderate to severe pain with moderate instability.
Grade 3: Often severe pain initially, usually lots of swelling and instability.

Immediate Treatment

  • Rest
  • Ice regularly in the early phase (24 – 48 hours post-injury). Ice should be applied every few hours for 15 – 20 minutes. If instructed by your physiotherapist, you should keep icing until the swelling has resolved.
  • Compression using a compressive bandage or elastic sleeve.
  • Elevate the ankle when possible in the first 48 hours post-injury.

Written by Mark Fotheringham – physiotherapist at Malvern Physiotherapy Clinic

Published April 30, 2012


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