An ankle sprain is a common injury and usually results when the ankle is twisted, or turned in (inverted). The term sprain signifies injury to the soft tissues, usually the ligaments, of the ankle.
Immediately after injury, the ankle is swollen, painful and may turn ecchymotic (bruised). The bruising and swelling are due to ruptured blood vessels from the tearing of the soft tissues. Most of the initial swelling is actually bleeding into the surrounding tissues. The ankle swells as extra fluid continues to leak into the tissues over the 24 hours following the sprain.
The diagnosis of an ankle sprain is usually made by examination of the ankle and X-rays to make sure that the ankle is not fractured.
Treatment options depend on whether your problem is an ankle sprain or ankle instability.
Treatments are used to control the swelling and ease pain, RICE. stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation.
Rest: The injured tissues in the ankle need time to heal. Crutches will prevent too much weight from being placed on the ankle.
Ice: Applying ice can help ease pain and may reduce swelling.
Compression: Gentle compression pushes extra swelling away from the ankle. This is usually accomplished by using an elastic wrap.
Elevation: Supporting your ankle above the level of your heart helps control swelling.
Your doctor may also prescribe medications. Mild pain relievers help with the discomfort. Anti-inflammatory medications can help ease pain and swelling and get people back to activity sooner after an ankle sprain.
As treatment progresses, it is helpful to gradually begin putting weight through the joint.
Casts is recommended under certain circumstances, Braces can be worn to support the ankle, but still allow weight bearing, are the most popular treatment for helping reduce strain on the healing tissues.
Healing of the ligaments usually takes about six weeks, but swelling may be present for several months. Your doctor may suggest that you work with a physical therapist to help you regain full range of ankle motion, improve balance and maximize strength.