Ankle Sprain: Meaning, Diagnosis and Overview

What is Ankle Sprain?

  • A sprain is a stretch injury of the ligaments that support the ankle. The ligaments on the outside of the ankle are the most commonly injured when the ankle is twisted.
  • Ligaments are strong, flexible tissues that attach your bones to one another. They keep your joints stable and help them move in the right ways.
  • The most common type of sprained ankle is called an inversion sprain, or lateral ligament sprain. In this type the ankle turns so the sole of the foot is facing inwards, stretching and possibly damaging the ligaments on the outer part of the ankle.
  • When you turn your ankle the other way, so that the sole of the foot is facing outward, this is called a medial ligament sprain. This damages the ligaments on the inside of a persons ankle.
  • If you repeatedly sprain the same ankle or feel pain for more than 4 weeks, you may have a chronic sprain.
Ankle sprain overview

Recovery Time

  • The pain and swelling of an ankle sprain usually gets better within 48 hours.
  • For less severe sprains, you may be able to go back to your normal activities after a few days. For more severe sprains, it may take several weeks.


The diagnosis is done by the physical examination of the ankle. If the injury is severe some of the imaging tests may be recommended.
  • X-ray 
  • Bone scan
  • CT scan (Computerized Tomography)
  • MRI (Magnetic resonance imaging)

FAQs prepared by doctor

Q1.  Will there be problems in the future with the ankle that is sprained?
  • Most people recover completely after spraining an ankle and have no long-term problems. Occasionally, if your sprained ankle is severe or is not treated correctly, you may continue to have pain and balance problems.
If your sprained ankle is left untreated or if you rush back to normal activities too soon, you may get complications:
  • Chronic pain – a chronic pain is one that lasts a long time, sometimes for the rest of the affected person s life
  • Ankle joint weakness and loss of balance
  • Early onset of arthritis in the injured joint arthritis causes pain, swelling and stiffness in your joints and bones
  • It s possible the ligaments in your ankle won t heal properly and the nerves that tell your brain what position your ankle is in may have become damaged. This will stop the muscles around your ankle from working properly and cause instability.
  • After completing your treatment, if you are still having difficulty running on uneven surfaces or feel like your ankle is going to give way you may have chronic instability. See your Doctor or physiotherapist for more advice.
Q2.  Should I soak my badly sprained ankle in hot or cold water?
  • BOTH!
  • Use hot and cold alternately.
  • Using an icepack will help bring the swelling and inflammation down
  • Soaking legs using hot water in a bucket with a pinch of salt will help improve the blood flow to the area and help speed up the natural healing process.
  • Too much heat will exacerbate the swelling and cut off blood supply.
  • Too much cold will reduce the blood supply and reduce the ability of enzymes needed to repair the damage. so, strike a balance .
  • Your body will tell you when u have found that balance as the pain should become less as it starts to heal.
  • Mild walking will help reduce the swelling by keeping the lymph flowing and encouraging blood flow.
  • Normal blood flow will help mop up the compounds released in injury which create the inflammation and allow the healing cells and compounds to reach the injured tissues faster.

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