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Sprained Ankle: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

All of us might have taken a misstep and sprained our ankle at least once in our lifetime. Sprained ankle is one of the most common musculoskeletal injuries in people of all age groups. According to studies, the incidence of sprained ankle is higher among adult females than adult males [1] .

A person tends to get a sprained ankle when they accidentally roll, twist or turn their ankle in a different way, which can lead to stretching or tearing of ligaments, tendons or muscles that help hold your ankle bones together.

The ligaments, muscles and tendons help keep the joints stabilized, preventing excessive movement and when they are pushed beyond their normal movement, it causes a sprain.

Causes Of Sprained Ankle

A sprained ankle occurs when your foot suddenly twists, forcing the ankle joint to come out of its position. This, in turn, causes the ligaments, muscles and tendons around the ankle to stretch or tear. As a result, your ankle is swollen up or bruised.

A sprained ankle mostly happens during physical activity [2] , while walking on uneven surfaces [3] or while wearing improper shoes.

Symptoms Of Sprained Ankle

  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Tenderness in the ankle
  • Pain in the ankle
  • Unable to put weight on the affected ankle
  • Stiffness

In children, the symptoms of sprained ankle are as follows:

  • Pain in the ankle
  • Warmth and swelling in the joint
  • Changes in the way the child walks or jumps
  • Limping
  • Changes in the child's energy levels

Risk Factors Of Sprained Ankle [4]

  • Rolling or twisting of the foot while participating in sports like tennis, football, soccer and basketball.
  • Poor strength or flexibility in the ankles increases the risk of sprained ankle.
  • Walking, running or hiking on uneven surfaces increases sprained ankle risk.
  • Wearing inappropriate shoes

Complications Of Sprained Ankle

If not treated on time or if you sprain your ankle repeatedly, it might lead to the following complications.

  • Arthritis in the ankle joint
  • Chronic ankle pain
  • Chronic ankle joint instability

When To See A Doctor

Consult a doctor if you experience pain and swelling in your ankle and you are unable to walk properly.

Diagnosis Of Sprained Ankle [5]

  • X-ray - An X-ray will show whether there is a bone fracture in the ankle.
  • MRI - MRI is done to show detailed cross-sectional images of the ligaments, tendons and ankles.
  • Ultrasound - This diagnostic procedure will show the condition in which a ligament or tendon is, when the foot is in different positions.
  • CT scan - CT scan is done to reveal more details about the bones of the joint.

Treatment Of Sprained Ankle [5]

  • Medications - Over-the-counter pain relieving medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen sodium can bring relief from ankle pain.
  • Crutches - Walking with a sprained ankle can be painful so you may need crutches until the pain subsides. Also, your doctor may recommend elastic bandage or sports tape to support the ankle.
  • Therapy - Once the pain and swelling lessens, your doctor may recommend a few exercises for you so that your ankle can regain its motion, flexibility, stability and strength. This will help the ankle muscles to work efficiently to support the joint and to help prevent repeated sprains.
  • Surgery - Surgery is performed in rare cases when the injury doesn't heal or the ankle can't be moved. The surgery is performed in two ways - repairing a ligament that won't heal or reconstructing a torn ligament with tissue from a nearby ligament or tendon.

Prevention Of Sprained Ankle

  • Warm-up exercises are crucial before starting any physical activity.
  • Avoid wearing high-heeled shoes if you are comfortable.
  • Maintain good muscle strength and flexibility.
  • Practice balance exercises.
  • Be careful when running or walking on uneven surfaces.
  • Wear properly fitted shoes to prevent a sprained ankle.
View Article References
  1. [1] Doherty, C., Delahunt, E., Caulfield, B., Hertel, J., Ryan, J., & Bleakley, C. (2014). The incidence and prevalence of sprained ankle injury: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective epidemiological studies.Sports medicine,44(1), 123-140.
  2. [2] Holland, B., Needle, A. R., Battista, R. A., West, S. T., & Christiana, R. W. (2019). Physical activity levels among rural adolescents with a history of sprained ankle and chronic ankle instability.PloS one,14(4), e0216243.
  3. [3] Oscar, L. W. H., Tun-Hing, L., & Kai-Ming, C. (2011). The epidemiology of sprained ankle during hiking in uniformed groups.Journal of Orthopaedics, Trauma and Rehabilitation,15(1), 10-16.
  4. [4] Baumhauer, J. F., Alosa, D. M., Renström, P. A., Trevino, S., & Beynnon, B. (1995). A prospective study of ankle injury risk factors.The American journal of sports medicine,23(5), 564-570.
  5. [5] Polzer, H., Kanz, K. G., Prall, W. C., Haasters, F., Ockert, B., Mutschler, W., & Grote, S. (2012). Diagnosis and treatment of acute ankle injuries: development of an evidence-based algorithm.Orthopedic reviews,4(1), e5.
Read more about: causes symptoms diagnosis treatment
Story first published: Friday, November 8, 2019, 11:22 [IST]
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