Ankle Sprains: When Ligaments Loosen


Most of us have twisted an ankle at one time or another, and not necessarily during a sporting event! All it takes is a misplaced step or an uneven surface and the ligaments that keep your ankle bones and joints in place can stretch beyond their normal limits. When this happens, the ligaments can no longer do their job of helping you move your foot, or in some cases, even support your weight. While you may be tempted to just “walk it off” or hobble around, a sprained ankle left untreated can result in chronic sprains and instability. It’s best to get your injury checked out so the proper treatment can be given.

What to Do Depends on the Degree

ankle sprain

There are three degrees of ankle sprains from mild to moderate to severe. Treatment varies depending on the amount of damage ligaments have sustained.

First Degree (Grade 1) – a mild sprain means there is minimal damage with some mild tenderness, slight swelling, and typically no bruising. You are still able to bear weight – but that doesn’t mean you should!

Second Degree (Grade 2) – this involves slight tearing of the ligaments and causes moderate pain, swelling, and some bruising. Bearing weight is possible but difficult and painful – don’t do it!

Third Degree (Grade 3) – the most severe ankle sprain, this is a complete tear of one or more of the ligaments, leaving you significantly unstable and in a lot of pain. There will be swelling and bruising, and possibly a popping sound when it happens. You will not be able to put weight on your foot.

Dependent upon the severity of your sprain, treatment ranges from RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) and anti-inflammatory medication, to physical therapy, a special boot and crutches, or ankle surgery.

A Sprain is Not a Fracture

Sometimes a sprained ankle is confused with an ankle fracture, but while symptoms can seem similar, these are very different injuries. A sprain involves connective tissues while a fracture or break involves the actual bones. Sometimes, if you sustain a broken ankle, however, the surrounding ligaments can be damaged as well. All the more reason to come see us, let us assess your injury and determine exactly what’s going on with an X-ray or MRI. That way you will receive the proper treatment so you can heal correctly and avoid any future complications.

The best way to avoid a twisted ankle -- or additional ankle sprains if one has already occurred -- is to do range-of-motion and strengthening exercises to improve stability, flexibility, and strength. Make sure shoes are supportive, and always warm up before activities, gradually building upon your exercise routine. Wearing an ankle brace or investing in custom orthotics can also offer added support. Steer clear of uneven terrain if you can, and listen to your body – it’s trying to tell you something if pain, swelling and bruising are present!

If you sprain your ankle, even if it’s just slightly, be sure to contact us as soon as possible to heal correctly and get back on your feet. You can make an appointment by using our online contact form or by calling (303) 805-5156.