What Is an Ankle Sprain?

The most common of all ankle injuries, an ankle sprain occurs when there is a stretching and tearing of ligaments surrounding the ankle joint. The numerous ligaments around the ankle can become pulled and torn when the ankle is forced into a position not normally encountered.

Causes of Ankle Sprains
The most common cause of an ankle sprain is applying weight to the foot when it is in an inverted or everted position. Commonly, this happens while running or jumping on an uneven surface. The foot rolls in (inversion) or out (eversion) and the ligaments are stretched. Occasionally a loud "snap" or "pop" is heard at the time of the sprain. This is usually followed by pain and swelling of the ankle.
Ankle sprains are classified by the degree of severity. These are:

•    Grade I - stretch and/or minor tear of the ligament without laxity (loosening)
•    Grade II - tear of ligament plus some laxity
•    Grade III - complete tear of the affected ligament (very loose)

Treatment of Ankle Sprains
For immediate relief, follow the R.I.C.E. treatment plan. Rest, Ice, Compression and elevation are the best immediate treatment for all pulls and strains. Many of the problems resulting from sprains are due to blood and edema in and around the ankle, therefore it is important to minimizing swelling. After applying the ice, wrap the ankle in an ACE bandage to keep it supported and compressed. An anti-inflammatory can be helpful to reduce pain and inflammation for the first 7 to 10 days after the injury.

Gradually progress to full weight bearing over several days as tolerated. Range of motion exercises and be begun early in the course of treatment. One simple exercise is to draw the letters of the alphabet with your toes. Gradual progression to weight-bearing exercises should follow.
Any ankle injury that does not respond to treatment in 1-2 weeks may be more serious. Always consult a physician for a thorough evaluation and diagnosis.