Ankle sprains are the number one reason for missed participation in athletics. They are common injuries that occur among people regardless of age and activity level. A sprained ankle occurs when the strong ligaments supporting your ankle stretch excessively and tear. Ankle sprains vary in severity depending on the number of ligaments involved and the extent or degree of tear. Many sprains heal with simple home remedies like elevation, ice, and over-the-counter medications, but some do not improve with conservative treatment. If your ankle remains swollen and painful despite conservative treatment, your Sports Medicine Associates of San Antonio specialist may recommend a medical evaluation to ensure you don’t have a severe ankle sprain or fracture.

Proper treatment and rehabilitation are vital because, when left untreated, a severe sprain can weaken your ankle, increasing the likelihood of injuring it again. Furthermore, repeated ankle sprain can lead to long-term problems such as arthritis, chronic pain, and instability.

The symptoms of an ankle sprain

The signs and symptoms of a sprained ankle vary depending on the severity or degree of the injury. Signature symptoms for an ankle sprain include:

  • Pain with rest but mainly with weight-bearing or activity
  • Tenderness when you touch the sprained ankle
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Limited or restricted range of motion
  • Instability

A severe ankle sprain has similar symptoms to fractures and requires prompt medical evaluation.

Causes of an ankle sprain

A sprain occurs unexpectedly when your ankle is forced to move out of its normal position, causing one or more of the ligaments to stretch and tear. Many people with this injury recall twisting their feet or ankle. If there is severe tearing of ligaments, you may hear or feel a popping sensation or sound at the time of injury. You may sprain your ankle unexpectedly during different activities such as:

  • Exercising or walking on an uneven surface
  • Participating in sports that require jumping action. This includes basketball, running, tennis and soccer.
  • Falling or tripping

Risk factors for a sprained ankle

Anyone can sprain their ankle regardless of age, but some factors elevate your risk of this injury. They include:

  • Prior ankle injury. You are more likely to sprain an ankle if you have sprained your ankle before or had another type of ankle injury.
  • Sports participation. Ankle sprains are common sports injuries among individuals who play sports that require rolling or twisting of the foot, jumping, and cutting action. These games include trail running, soccer, football, basketball, and tennis.
  • Certain shoes. Wearing high-heeled shoes or shoes that don’t fill properly puts you at risk of an ankle sprain. Using the wrong shoes for activity also makes ankles more vulnerable to injury.
  • Poor physical state. Weakness and inflexibility in the ankles increase your risk of an ankle sprain when participating in sports.
  • Walking or running on poor field conditions or uneven surfaces also makes it more likely for you to sprain your ankle.

Usually, home treatments like ice, rest, compression, and elevation help reduce symptoms like swelling. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen and naproxen can help alleviate the pain; these drugs are a better option for mild sprains than narcotic painkillers.

If your sprained ankle is still painful and swollen despite using home remedies, visit your specialist at Marque A. Allen, DPM, FACFAS, for medical treatment to eliminate pain and improve function.