An injured ankle can knock you off your feet and leave you in a lot of pain. A sprain is a common minor injury, although it can be more severe. Ankle sprains occur when you turn or twist your ankle outside of its normal range of motion. The bands of tissue that hold your ankle in place and facilitate motion are called ankle ligaments, and damage to one or more ligaments is the cause of most sprains.

Sprains can range from mild to severe, with mild ones being the result of stretched ligaments and more severe sprains resulting from torn ligaments or a complete ligament tear. Some severe sprains can even lead to broken bones in the foot or ankle. Continue reading to discover the symptoms of a sprained ankle, causes, risk factors and tips to prevent chronic ankle problems.

doctor examining an injured foot - what happens when you sprain your ankle

How Do You Know If You Sprain an Ankle?

The precise symptoms of a sprain depend on how badly you’ve stretched or torn the ligaments. A more severe sprain results in the most painful symptoms, while you might experience only one or two of the following symptoms with minor sprains:

  • Pain and swelling
  • Mild tenderness for mild sprains and moderate to severe tenderness for a torn ligament
  • Pain or tenderness when you put weight on the ankle joint
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Difficulty walking
  • Bruising
  • Buckling and instability

Why Do Ankle Sprains Happen?

Most sprained ankles occur as a result of sports such as climbing, football, running, basketball, trampolining or volleyball. That said, you might also have sprained your ankle going about your daily business. Weight-bearing movements that can lead to ankle sprain include:

  • Someone stepping or falling on your ankle
  • An uneven surface puts your ankle in a strange position
  • Your body falling but your ankle remains in place, causing it to twist
  • Landing at an awkward angle after pivoting or jumping

Risk Factors for Ankle Sprains

Regularly taking part in sports naturally increases your risk. However, you’re most at risk when you’re untrained or new to a sport. There are some other risk factors that make you more prone to ankle sprains: 

  • Insufficient warm-up before physical activity
  • Fatigue
  • Uneven surfaces
  • Inappropriate footwear
  • Poor physical conditioning

Complications of Not Getting Proper Treatment for an Ankle Sprain

Most ankle sprains heal quickly, but failure to get one checked out could result in:

  • Chronic pain
  • Chronic ankle instability
  • Repeated ankle injuries
  • Arthritis

A physical therapist or doctor may prescribe the following treatments to decrease pain, reduce swelling and help prevent further injury:

  • Painkillers
  • Gentle stretching exercises
  • Rehabilitation exercises
  • Ankle brace
  • Strengthening exercises
  • Resting your ankle

How to Prevent a Sprained Ankle

Almost all ankle sprains make you more vulnerable to repeat injury. However, there are some things you can do to prevent this from happening:

  • Warming up properly
  • Maintenance exercises
  • Stretching
  • Strength training
  • Paying attention to form when exercising
  • Wearing shoes that fit correctly and are appropriate to the activity
  • Using elastic bandages or a brace to support the ankle during sports
  • Taking care when being active on an uneven surface

If you’ve sprained your ankle and need treatment or advice to prevent a very severe injury in the future, get in touch with the experts at Align Foot and Ankle in Camarillo or Santa Barbara today.