Sprained Ankle Treatment – Causes and Treatment

Sprained Ankle Treatment – Causes and Treatment

Before we look at sprained ankle treatment, let’s take a look at what a sprained ankle is. When an ankle sprain occurs, what happens is that the ligaments holding the ankle tear or stretch. Ligaments function as the connecting tissue holding bones together or bone to cartilage.

Many people confuse sprains for strains, professionally, they are two different conditions. While sprains refer to injured ligaments, strains affect tendons or muscles. Despite the difference between both conditions, their symptoms are quite similar.

This is why you need a doctor to expertly differentiate between a sprain and a strain. Truth be told, when you have an ankle sprain, the pain is excruciating and, in some cases, immobilizing. Sometimes, when you have a sprained ankle, you feel like you have a bone fracture.

Signs and symptoms

To help you know whether you have a sprain in your ankle, it is important to know sprained ankle symptoms. The major symptom is the pain which is dependent on how severe the sprain is and the ligaments affected. In some cases, a sprain may affect more than one ligament.

With respect to sprained ankle grades, sprains in the ankle can be divided into 3 grades medically. These classifications are based on severity and they are explained below:

  • Grade 1 – These sprains are very mild and occur during stretching or microscopic tearing of the ligament in the ankle. As a result, you will experience only mild swelling and pain.
  • Grade 2 – The sprains, in this case, are moderate and result from partial tearing of the ligament in the ankle. In this case, the swelling and pain are moderate. You are also likely to notice that the joint is loose abnormally when the doctor is manipulating the ankle.
  • Grade 3 – This occurs when the ligament tears completely. As you will expect, the pain and swelling is more pronounced and could lead to immobility. Usually, when the doctor tugs at the ankle, there is likely to be instability in the joint.

When a patient feels intense pain, it simply implies that the sprain is severe. However, sprains are generally painful. Here are some of the other symptoms of sprains:

  • Bruising or swelling around the location of the sprain.
  • Sudden pain, especially immediately after a blow or fall. Most times, this pain increases after a few hours.
  • Difficult when moving the affected ankle.
  • If the sprain is Grade 3 in nature, there is likely to be a popping sound immediately after the injury.
  • Instability in the joint which may hinder movement or cause a collapse of the ankle while walking.

The pain is very similar to that experienced with fractures and the symptoms are quite similar too. If you experience bone or muscle pain frequently, it is important to visit your physician.

In children

There are certain sprains that children do not experience. The reason for this is that they have growth plates at the ends of their bones which allow for growth. Usually, these plates are weaker in strength than ligaments.

Because of this, children are more at risk of fractures than injury to soft tissue. Of course, this does not rule out the chance of sprained ankles in children. When this occurs, these are the symptoms to expect:

  • Behavioral or mood changes, mostly in the kids that are too young to express their pain verbally.
  • Swelling, flushing, or warmth in the affected joint.
  • Ankle pain.
  • Alterations in how the child walks.
  • Persistent crying and more frequent need for nursing (experienced more in babies).
  • A significant drop in energy levels.

When you look at these, you will see that they are very similar to the symptoms of a broken bone in children. As a result, it is best to seek advice from a physician for further action.

Causes of a Sprained Ankle

We cannot discuss sprained ankle treatment without first looking into the causes of this condition. When an injury traumatizes or stretches the ligaments in the ankle, it puts it at risk of a sprain. The most common causes of this include:

  • Falls – When a person falls, twists in the ankle, as well as the supporting ligaments, are very possible. Patients suffering from certain medical conditions like osteoporosis are more at risk of falling. Falls may also result from engaging in sporting activities.
  • Blow to the ankle – In the event that a sudden blow occurs and it stretches the ligaments in the ankle, a sprain is imminent. A simple example is when a person falls putting all their weight on the ankle. This causes injury to the ligaments.
  • Sedentary lifestyle – While this is not a direct cause, it puts the individual at risk because of soft tissue injuries. The moment the already weak tissue is extended, it is likely going to tear.
  • Overuse – This is mostly experienced by athletes. Playing sports continually could cause tears in ligaments, muscles, and tendons. With falls or blows, damage to these tissues may occur.
  • Previously sprained ankle – If there was a previous sprain in the ankle and it didn’t heal properly, there is a risk of another sprain. Sometimes, this alters how the individual walks leading to more risks of injuries.

Sprained Ankle Treatment and Home Remedies

The first step to treating a sprained ankle is by keeping it still. This way, you will be able to avert future injuries and control the swelling which will ease the pain. After the swelling reduces, gentle exercises and stretches will help to prevent weakness in the muscles while facilitating healing.

If the sprain is mild, there may be no need for medical treatment. Simple home remedies will be enough to ease the pain. Here’s a list of remedies you could use.

  • RICE – This is an acronym for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Doing these will ensure that swelling and pain reduces considerably after a few days. During this period, it is important to stay away from any strenuous activity. The ice should be applied over the injured area for 20 minutes at each interval. With a compression sleeve or bandage, you can reduce the swelling. Anytime you are lying down or sitting, it is important to elevate the ankle just above the heart.
  • Over-the-counter medication – These drugs are non-steroidal and anti-inflammatory in nature, for example, ibuprofen. Administering these will reduce swelling and alleviate pain.
  • Crutches – In the event that the patient is suffering from a lot of pain, crutches may be needed. These will help the patient to be mobile without exerting pressure on the ankle. It will also alleviate pain and reduce the risk of more injury.

Sometimes, the sprain is so severe that home remedies will not suffice. Sprained ankle treatment, in this case, will require visiting a doctor for additional treatment. Some of the treatment measures include:

  • Immobilization – In most cases, this involves using a splint or wearing a boot to stop the ankle from moving. With this, stability will be improved at the joint while the risk of another injury is averted.
  • Physical therapy – This helps to heal injured ligaments and other surrounding soft tissues. These may include home exercises and stretches and regular evaluation from a therapist. This process will help to improve motion in the affected joint while strengthening the surrounding muscles.
  • Surgery – This is not always necessary except the sprain is very severe. A patient may require surgery when the damage or instability affects multiple ligaments. Other patients that may require surgery are those suffering from complicated conditions like arthritis. If a patient is still feeling pains even after therapy, surgery may be required to fix the torn ligaments.

When Should You See a Doctor?

In line with sprained ankle treatment, many people ask when they should visit a doctor. As stated earlier, most sprains will heal naturally, especially minor ones.

Only doctors can diagnose sprains accurately. The reason for this is that sprains have very similar symptoms to other injuries like strains and fractures.

These are the occasions when you need the attention of a doctor:

  • A child is suffering from a sprain.
  • The pain is unbearable or intense.
  • Walking proves difficult after a few days.
  • The pain still exists after a few weeks of the sprain.
  • There is a recurrent injury.
  • The skin above the sprain location, in this case, the ankle, experiences external trauma. Examples of these are bleeding and broken skin.
  • Chronic pain that exists for several weeks.
  • Home remedies seem to fail in providing relief, instead, the pain is getting more intense.


Sprains are actually more common than you will imagine, most of the time, these sprains are very mild. One general experience with sprains is how painful they can be. The best-sprained ankle treatment method is resting the ankle to avoid more injury. If you don’t feel relief after this, it is best to see a doctor for further diagnosis.

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