Ligaments are strong, flexible tissues that attach your bones to one another. They keep your joints stable and help them move in the right ways.
An ankle sprain occurs when the ligaments in your ankle are stretched or torn.
There are three grades of ankle sprains:
The last two kinds of sprains are often associated with tearing of small blood vessels. This allows blood to leak into tissues and cause black and blue color in the area. The blood may not appear for several days. Most of the time it is absorbed from the tissues within 2 weeks.
If your sprain is more severe:
Some ankle sprains may become chronic (long-lasting). If this happens to you, your ankle may continue to be:
Your health care provider may order an x-ray to look for a bone fracture, or an MRI scan to look for an injury to the ligament.
To help your ankle heal, your provider may treat you with a brace, a cast or a splint, and may give you crutches to walk on. You may be asked to place only part or none of your weight on the bad ankle. You will also need to do physical therapy or exercises to help you recover from the injury.
You can decrease swelling by:
Apply ice every hour while you are awake, 20 minutes at a time and covered by a towel or bag, for the first 24 hours after the injury. After the first 24 hours, apply ice 20 minutes three to four times per day. DO NOT apply ice directly to your skin. You should wait at least 30 minutes in between ice applications.
Pain medicines, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, may help to ease pain and swelling. You can buy these medicines without a prescription.
During the first 24 hours after your injury you may take acetaminophen (Tylenol and others) if your provider tells you it is safe to do so. People with liver disease should not take this medicine.
The pain and swelling of an ankle sprain most often gets better within 48 hours. After that, you can begin to put weight back on your injured foot.
Your provider will give you exercises to strengthen your foot and ankle. Doing these exercises can help prevent future sprains and chronic ankle pain.
For less severe sprains, you may be able to go back to your normal activities after a few days. For more severe sprains, it may take several weeks.
Talk to your provider before returning to more intense sports or work activities.
You should call your provider if you notice any of the following:
If you have experienced a foot or ankle injury or are experiencing any joint pain, call 1-855-NH-SPORT to schedule an appointment with one of our orthopedic sports medicine specialists.