Ankle sprains happens when a person bends, twists, turns, or flexes his/her ankle beyond what his/her anatomical limits allow. This causes a stretching of the structures that hold the ankle in place and give it stability, specifically the ligaments. Most of these sprains happen on the external side of the ankle.
Some of its symptoms may be felt immediately, especially if the ligament involvement is severe, while others appear over time:
- Pain on movement or palpation, which may be sudden or may increase progressively, especially when weight is placed on the affected foot.
- Local inflammation, which takes a few minutes to appear and causes a considerable increase in the volume of the area.
- Redness and/or hematoma, appearing suddenly in severe sprains or gradually in lighter conditions.
- Limited range of motion, which makes the patient unable to move the ankle joint freely.
- Ankle instability, which feels as if the ankle is looser than normal.
- Snapping sound upon twisting, which happens in more severe conditions where the ligament fibers are ruptured.
Diagnosis is usually made through physical examination of the foot and ankle, where the physician will evaluate the signs present. In addition, to confirm the diagnosis and differentiate it from a possible ankle fracture, imaging tests, such as X-rays, MRI, CT scan, or ultrasound of the affected area may be performed.
Treatment will depend on the severity of the ankle sprain. When the trauma is mild, resting the joint, applying ice, taking oral anti-inflammatory drugs, and immobilizing the joint with elastic bands is sufficient.
In more severe cases where the ligament is torn and cannot heal on its own, surgery is necessary to re-establish normal ankle anatomy. Subsequently, undergoing some physical therapy sessions may be necessary to return to the pre-injury situation.