Ankle sprains are one of the most common injuries. They can happen to anyone, not just athletes. Even a simple misstep can injure your ankle during everyday activities. Understanding the types of ankle sprains can help you recognize symptoms and seek help to heal your ankle as quickly as possible.
What causes a sprained ankle?
A sprained ankle is caused by any activity that stretches or tears the ligaments in the ankle. Strong ligaments stabilize the joint and maintain balance while standing, walking, and performing physical activities.
When the ankle ligaments are stretched too far, small tears or even a complete tear can occur. A sprained ankle can be caused by:
- Walking, running, or jumping on an uneven surface
- Landing wrong while jumping or playing sports, causing your ankle to roll
- Slipping or falling down
- Playing sports that require quick changes in direction such as basketball, football, or soccer
Even something as simple as stepping off a curb can cause an injury. You do not have to be performing strenuous physical activity to sprain your ankle.
Degrees of Ankle Sprains
There are three degrees of ankle sprains. The type of sprain you’ve sustained will determine your treatment options and recovery time.
First degree ankle sprains are the mildest. In most cases the ligament has been stretched but has not torn. You may experience minor pain and some stiffness or swelling.
Second degree ankle sprains typically involve a partial tear of the ligament. This is the most common type of ankle sprain and is characterized by moderate pain in addition to swelling, bruising, and some difficulty with movement.
Third degree sprains occur when the ligament has torn completely. This is the most severe type of sprain, and typically involves immense pain, swelling, loss of motion, and joint instability. You should see a doctor very soon to choose the correct form of treatment.
Non-Surgical & Surgical Treatment Options
Mild sprains can usually be treated at home with the RICE method. RICE stands for:
- Rest and refrain from walking as much as possible
- Ice can be used to keep the swelling down three or four times per day for 20 minutes at a time
- Compression dressings like bandages or wraps for stabilizing your joint
- Elevate your foot above the heart
Moderate sprains can be treated with non-surgical treatments. You may have crutches or an immobilization brace to keep the joint stable. Adhere to the RICE method while at home.
Although rare, occasionally surgical treatment is necessary. During the procedure, any fragments of bone or cartilage are removed and the torn ligament is repaired.
You may also have physical therapy to build up the muscle around the joint, prevent stiffness, and promote healing. Treatment can be paired with an over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen or naproxen to alleviate pain and swelling.
Mild sprains can take approximately two weeks to heal, while moderate to severe sprains can take six to 12 weeks. Dr. Dickerson is an accomplished podiatrist and ankle surgeon, so he has a deep understanding of ankle injuries. He will help you develop a custom treatment plan to recoup as much movement and functionality as possible.
Learn more about Foot and Ankle Injuries.