The Twist Behind Ankle Sprain

Symptoms and diagnosis for Ankle Sprain
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By Orthopaedic and Neurology Clinic

Ankle Sprain info

What is define by an Ankle Sprain?

Ankle sprain is a common injury when the tissue that connects your ankle bones and supports your ankle (ligaments) is torn or stretched beyond its limits, often after a fall, ankle roll or twist.

Our Specialist grade ankle sprains by how severe they are:

  • Mild (grade I). Your ligaments are stretched but not torn. Your ankle still feels stable. You may have some pain and stiffness.
  • Moderate (grade II). One or more ligaments are partially torn. The joint isn’t totally stable, and you can’t move it as much as usual. You have swelling and moderate pain.
  • Severe (grade III). One or more ligaments are totally torn, and your ankle is unstable. You have a lot of pain and can’t move it.

What are some symptoms of an Ankle Sprain?

Signs and symptoms of an ankle sprain vary depending on the severity of the injury. They may include:

  • Pain, especially when you bear weight on the affected foot
  • Tenderness when you touch the ankle
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Restricted range of motion
  • Instability in the ankle
  • Popping sensation or sound at the time of injury

“If you fell or twisted your ankle, and the injury causes you pain, swelling, bruising and you have trouble walking, you can assume that you have a sprained ankle. Prompt treatment can speed recovery and reduce the risk of a chronic or secondary injury.”

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What types of diagnosis?

We highly recommend seeking professional help instead of self diagnosis in order to identify the source of the issue and to receive faster recovery.

During a physical, our Specialist will examine your anklefoot and lower leg. The doctor will touch the skin around the injury to check for points of tenderness and move your foot to check the range of motion and to understand what positions cause discomfort or pain.

If the injury is severe, our doctor may recommend one or more of the following imaging scans to rule out a broken bone or to evaluate in more detail the extent of ligament damage:

  • X-ray. During an X-ray, a small amount of radiation passes through your body to produce images of the bones of the ankle. This test is good for ruling out bone fractures.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MRIs use radio waves and a strong magnetic field to produce detailed cross-sectional or 3-D images of soft internal structures of the ankle, including ligaments.
  • CT scan. CT scans can reveal more detail about the bones of the joint. CT scans take X-rays from many different angles and combine them to make cross-sectional or 3-D images.
  • Ultrasound. An ultrasound uses sound waves to produce real-time images. These images may help our doctor judge the condition of a ligament or tendon when the foot is in different positions.

Possible treatment methods?

Treating a sprained ankle properly may prevent chronic pain and looseness. For a Grade 1 (mild) sprain, follow the R.I.C.E. guidelines:

  • Rest your ankle by not walking on it. Limit weight bearing and use crutches if necessary. If there is no broken bone you are safe to put some weight on the leg. An ankle brace often helps control swelling and adds stability while the ligaments are healing.

  • Ice it to keep down the swelling. Don’t put ice directly on the skin (use a thin piece of cloth such as a pillowcase between the ice bag and the skin) and don’t ice more than 20 minutes at a time to avoid frostbite.

  • Compression can help control swelling as well as immobilize and support your injury.

  • Elevate the foot by reclining and propping it up above the waist or heart as needed.

Swelling usually goes down in a few days.

For a Grade 2 (moderate) sprain, follow the R.I.C.E. guidelines and allow more time for healing. Our doctor may immobilize or splint your sprained ankle.

A Grade 3 (severe) sprain puts you at risk for permanent ankle looseness (instability). On rare occasions, surgery may be needed to repair the damage, especially in competitive athletes. For severe ankle sprains, our Specialist may also consider treating you with a short leg cast for 2-3 weeks or a walking boot. People who sprain their ankle repeatedly may also need surgical repair to tighten their ligaments.

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