Ligament Sprain

An ankle sprain is an injury to a ligament, a band of tissue that functions like a rubber band to connect bones and bind joints together. In the ankle joint, ligaments limit side-to-side movement providing stability.
The severity of an ankle sprain depends on whether your ligament is stretched, partially torn or completely torn, as well as on the number of ligaments involved. Ankle sprains are more common on the outside of the ankle.


Spraining your ankle often results from a fall, a sudden twist or a blow that forces your ankle joint out of its normal position. Ankle sprains commonly occur while participating in sports, wearing inappropriate shoes or walking or running on an uneven surface. Sometimes these sprains may occur if you are born with weak ankles. Previous ankle or foot injuries can also weaken the ankle and lead to sprains.


Contact a doctor if you notice:

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

Potential Treatments

In evaluating your injury, your doctor will need a thorough history of your symptoms and examine your foot. X-rays or other advanced imaging studies may be performed to help determine the severity of the injury.

At first, you should follow the RICE protocol:

Rest: Stay off your injured ankle. Walking may cause further injury.
Ice: Apply an ice pack to the injured area, placing a thin towel between the ice and the skin. Use ice for 20 minutes and then wait at least 40 minutes before icing again.
Compression: An elastic wrap may be recommended to control swelling.
Elevation: Your ankle should be raised slightly above the level of your heart to reduce swelling.

Early physical therapy is important. You should start a rehabilitation program as soon as possible to promote healing and increase your range of motion. This includes doing prescribed exercises.
Your doctor may prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, to reduce pain and inflammation as well as pain medications to provide adequate relief.

In more severe cases, your doctor may perform surgery to adequately treat an ankle sprain. Surgery often involves repairing the damaged ligament or ligaments. Your doctor will determine the best approach based on your evaluation.

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