An ankle sprain is a common injury in which one or more ligaments in the ankle are overstretched or torn. Ankle sprains are classified by the severity of the damage to the affected ligaments. In a Grade 1 sprain, the ligament is overstretched or slightly torn. This is often accompanied by mild pain, tenderness, swelling, and stiffness. A Grade 2 sprain is characterized by a more severe but incomplete tear that causes moderate pain, swelling, and bruising. It may become difficult to walk. A Grade 3 sprain occurs when the affected ligament has torn completely. With a Grade 3 sprain, pain, swelling, and bruising are usually severe and walking is usually impossible.
Ankle sprains are typically caused by a sudden or forceful twisting of the ankle. This can happen from falling, landing awkwardly on your foot after a jump or pivot, or from a direct impact during a sporting activity, among other causes. Athletes, particularly those who play basketball, tennis, soccer, or football, tend to have an increased risk of ankle sprains. Ankle sprains are also common among runners.
Home treatment for mild ankle sprains usually involves following the R.I.C.E. acronym. Resting, icing, compressing, and elevating the affected ankle can help reduce swelling, inflammation, and pain. Taking over the counter pain medications can also help. More severe sprains may require using an elastic bandage, splint, or brace to stabilize or immobilize the ankle while it heals. As you recover, your doctor may suggest various stretches to help you recover and maintain strength and flexibility in the injured ankle. In rare, severe or chronic cases, surgery may be needed.
Recovery time depends on the severity of the sprain. Mild Grade 1 sprains may take 2-3 weeks to heal, while moderate Grade 2 sprains can take 4-6 weeks. Grade 3 sprains can take several months to heal. It is important that you follow your doctor’s orders to ensure a full recovery. Returning to your previous activities, particularly high-impact workouts or sports, before you have fully recovered can significantly increase your risk of repeated ankle injury. Sustaining multiple ankle sprains can lead to chronic ankle instability and arthritis.