Symptoms of a Sprained Ankle

sprained ankle symptomsMany of us have stepped on a rock incorrectly or rolled an ankle and we have wondered, “Do I have a sprained ankle?” Here we look closely at what it means to have a sprain, the symptoms of a sprain and when it’s time to seek medical help.

What is a Sprained Ankle?

A sprained ankle is an injury to one or more ligaments in the ankle, usually on the outside of an ankle. Ligaments are bands of tissue that connect one bone to another bone. Essentially they keep our joints together. In the case of the ankle joint, ligaments provide stability as they limit side to side motion.

Like many injuries, some sprained ankles can be worse than others. The seriousness depends on whether the ligament is stretched, partially torn or completely torn, as well as the number of ligaments that are injured.

Sprained ankles are not the same as ankle STRAINS which involve muscles instead of ligaments.


There are many causes of a sprained ankle. Ankles are prone to injury simply because they are used a lot. The most common result from a sudden fall, twist or blow that forces the ankle joint out of its normal position. This can happen while hiking, wearing unsupportive shoes or running on an uneven sidewalk or surface.

Some sprained ankles happen because of weak ankles, a condition that some people are born with. Additionally, previous ankle or foot injuries can also lead to weak ankles and eventually sprains.


There are five signs of a sprained ankle:

  • Pain or Soreness
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Difficulty walking
  • Stiffness in the joint

Sprained ankle symptoms can fluctuate in intensity depending on the sprain. In people with previous ankle or foot injuries, they may not feel acute pain or swelling. They may simply feel unsteady when walking.

When to Seek Medical Attention

You should seek medical attention if you are experiencing any sprained ankle symptoms. A sprained ankle is a serious injury and can lead to additional complications if left untreated. Contact a foot and ankle surgeon for an appointment as soon as possible.

In the meantime, begin using the “R.I.C.E.” treatment.

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Compression
  • Elevation

These steps should at least help to reduce swelling, pain and further  injury.

If you do think you have a sprained ankle, do not hesitate to seek help.

From Dr. Jason Dickerson and Heiden Orthopedics
American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons


I didn’t realize that you might have a sprained ankle if you feel stiffness or see bruising. I’m pretty sure that I sprained my ankle when I was playing with my dog yesterday. If it doesn’t get better in the next day or two, I will see a doctor.


I’m glad you explained that one of the signs of a sprained ankle is that the joint involved will be very stiff. My son sprained his ankle playing soccer. I’ll have to find a doctor that specializes in feet to take him to.


    I am sorry to hear about your son. We have two providers specializing in the foot and ankle: Dr. Enrqie Feria-Arias and Dr. Jason Dickerson. We would be happy to see him.


My sister accidentally sprained her ankle while on a hiking trip, which is why we’ve decided to start looking for an orthopedist that may address this concern. Thank you for clarifying here that aside from an extreme activity, the sprain may also stem from weak ankles. Anyways, we’ll keep in mind to apply ice on the injured area.


I started walking, pain and issues free on my treadmill for an hour. I stopped and started without having any issues no pain and etc. Leisurely walked.
I got off the treadmill laid on the bed on my belly to relax then I started to feel pain in the outside of my left ankle. I was basically on my shins and belly, feet hanging off the bed I adjusted myself bringing both legs on the bed. There’s excruciating pain. I can not walk or put any pressure on my foot. Can I sprain or strain my ankle without knowing, no swelling just excruciating pain?

Thank you!


    It would be a little unusual to sprain your ankle without recalling a specific injury or trauma. That being said, a strain of a muscle in or around your ankle could definitely happen secondary to overuse, without a specific injury (e.g. walking or running more than usual). If the pain is excruciating to the point where you are unable to put weight on your foot, I would recommend seeing an orthopedic surgeon for further evaluation.


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