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Even the slightest misstep can cause a sprained ankle with the right (or rather, wrong) conditions. It's common for sprains to range in severity, so understanding what is a sprained ankle is key to a quick recovery. Be sure to talk to your doctor as soon as possible for proper diagnosis and treatment program. Read on to learn how to recognize common causes, symptoms, and types of sprained ankle injuries.
Sprained ankles are extremely common—approximately 25,000 people sprain an ankle every day. Not to be confused with a strain, which involves injury to the muscles or tendons, an ankle sprain is an injury to the ligaments—tough bands of tissue that hold bones together. Ankle sprains happen when these ligaments are overstretched or, in severe cases, torn.
A sprained ankle is caused by a sudden and forceful shift in the natural position of the ankle joint, leading to the stretching or tearing of the ankle’s ligaments. There are several common reasons for this shift:
Knowing the symptoms of a sprained ankle will help you differentiate between a sprain and a bone break—and seek proper treatment immediately.
Recognizing the symptoms of a sprained ankle is key to preventing further damage to the joint. Here are the common signs of a sprained ankle.
Depending on the severity of the sprain, you may experience considerable discomfort or excruciating pain. You may hear or feel a pop at the moment the injury occurs.
A sprained ankle is usually accompanied by bruising, as well as swelling and stiffness. Pronounced bruising is usually a sign of a severe ankle sprain.
A swollen sprained ankle is the byproduct of increased blood flow to the area—the body's way of initiating the healing process. Added blood flow may also cause heat and redness.
If you experience severe pain, cannot tolerate bearing weight through your ankle at all, experience numbness or tingling, and/or have pain directly over your ankle bone, you may have a broken bone. You’re doctor can order an X-ray to rule this out.
Not all sprained ankles are created equal. Identifying the type and grade of your sprained ankle can help you choose the correct treatment option.
An inversion sprain happens when the ankle rolls inward and damages the ligaments on the outer side of the ankle. Inversion sprains are the most common type of ankle sprain.
Less frequently, the ankle rolls outward. An eversion sprain is painful along the inner side of the ankle and can cause serious injury to the ligaments and tendons supporting the arch of the foot.
Ankle sprains range from mild to severe. The presentation of symptoms usually match the severity of the injury.
Light bruising, if any
Joint instability with weight-bearing activity
Major joint instability
There are a number of precautionary steps you can take to prevent ankle sprains:
Sprained ankle recovery time varies depending on the degree of the sprain. Those with grade 1 sprains typically resume normal activities after two weeks. Recovering from more severe sprains takes longer—anywhere from six to twelve weeks.
Regardless of the severity of the ankle sprain, there are three phases of ankle of recovery that need to be followed to ensure complete rehabilitation and to prevent complications:
Follow the initial R.I.C.E. guidelines of rest, ice, compression, and elevation. This phase continues until symptoms are better managed and improving.
Slowly introduce gentle exercises to improve range of motion, flexibility and strength.
Progress exercises and gradually return to normal activities. Following the completion of this last phase of ankle rehabilitation, return to sports and other activities while keeping up with a maintenance exercise program.SHOP SPRAINED ANKLE PRODUCTS
Next Pages:How to Treat a Sprained Ankle
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