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5 Symptoms of an Ankle Sprain

A sprained ankle is among the a common type of musculoskeletal injury,especially if you’re an athlete or dancer, or you’re physically active. Up to 70% of people who suffer an ankle sprain may develop a physical disability, including chronic ankle instability.

When you twist or roll your ankle, or if you're in an accident that injures your ankle, you may wonder if it’s a sprain, strain, or other type of injury? Does it matter? It does. Each type of injury has slightly different symptoms and may need a customized treatment approach.

Even though ankle sprains and strains are common, at Advanced Foot & Ankle Center, our board-certified podiatrists take them seriously. If you have a sprain, strain, or other injury, we customize your care at our offices throughout Utah so your injured tissues can heal properly and you regain function of your ankle joint. 

Do you have an ankle sprain that needs medical attention? Following are five symptoms that suggest you do.

1. Your ankle hurts

The main symptom of an ankle sprain is pain. Sprains occur when you stretch or even tear the ligaments that support your joints. Strains, in contrast, are stretches or tears in your muscle or the tendons that attach muscle to bone.

Sprains are much more common in ankles than strains are. If your ankle hurts after a blow, a twist, or a roll, you probably have a sprain. 

Approximately 90% of ankle sprains occur when the foot rolls inward, forcing the ankle outward. This stretches or tears the anterior talofibular (ATFL) and calcaneofibular (CFL) ligaments. The ATFL and CFL are lateral ligaments on the outside of your ankle. 

Less commonly, your foot turns or rolls outward, forcing your ankle inward. This type of movement injures the deltoid ligament, which is the inside of your ankle.

It’s important to note that ankle pain could also be a sign of a hairline fracture. It’s possible to have both an ankle sprain and hairline fracture, especially if your injury was caused by a blow, collision, or fall.

2. Your ankle is unstable

You may have severely stretched or even torn your ligaments if your ankle isn’t strong enough to hold your weight. Tearing a ligament could also throw the bones in your ankle out of alignment, so they can’t stay stable. Another sign of instability is being unable to use your ankle’s full range of motion. 

Sprains are categorized by grade:

If you have a grade 1 sprain, you can probably support your weight without difficulty and walk without intense pain. In grade 2, you have slight pain when you walk. Your podiatrist can identify instability on examination.

If you have a grade 3 sprain, you have severe pain when you step on your foot. Instability is apparent on examination. 

3. You have tenderness around the ankle

A clear symptom of an ankle sprain is tenderness around the injured area. Since the most common area of a sprain are the ligaments on the outer ankle, that’s where you may feel tenderness.

Gently palpate your outer ankle. If you feel pain to your touch, you probably have a sprain.

4. Your ankle is swollen

Both sprains and strains can cause your ankle to swell. Swelling could also be a sign of a hairline fracture.

In addition to physically examining your ankle, we take imaging studies to evaluate the extent of the injury. We may order a stress X-ray, in which we push your ankle to determine if the ligaments function normally or not. 

5. Your ankle is bruised

When your ankle is bruised after your acute injury, you most likely have a sprain. Strains don’t usually cause bruises, although they may trigger spasms. The more severe your bruise, the more severe your sprain probably is.

Take care and get treatment

If you rolled, twisted, or injured your ankle, start with the RICE protocol (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) and over-the-counter painkillers until you can come to our office for an in-depth evaluation and customized treatment. 

A first ankle sprain puts you at risk for another one in the future, as well as possible long-term ankle instability. Complications of a poorly healed sprained ankle include:

Does your ankle hurt or do you suspect you have a sprained ankle? Find out why, and get the treatment you need to stabilize and strengthen your ankle again by calling our team at the office nearest you. Or simply book your appointment online today.

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