What is a sprained ankle?
An ankle sprain causes over 85% of ankle injuries and is the common ankle pain reason. An ankle sprain results from sudden twisting of the foot that may cause a ligament tear or a wound. A sprained ankle is a sign of extreme stretching of the ligaments beyond capacity. Swelling and bruising is also a common symptom of a sprained ankle. Home remedies for ankle pain focus on the reduction of pain and swelling.
The ankle joint connects the lower leg with your foot. The ankle bone is held in place with the help of three ligaments. If one of these ligaments is torn or stretched beyond its normal range of movement, it causes a sprained ankle. The injury usually occurs due to a sudden twist or turn of the ankle joint. Most injuries causing a sprained ankle occur on the outer side of the ankle.
The treatment for a sprain in the ankle depends on the severity of the injury caused. While there are various over-the-counter medications and home remedies for ankle pain, a medical evaluation is necessary to find out the extent of injury caused.
Grades of a Sprained ankle
Doctors classify a sprained ankle based on its severity.
- ● Grade-I (Mild)
In this type of injury, the ligament is stretched but not torn. Although your ankle feels stable, you may experience some pain, stiffness, and discomfort.
- ● Grade-II (Moderate)
In this stage, one or more ligaments get partially torn. You experience stiffness in your ankle, and the joint gets unstable. You may experience moderate pain and swelling.
- ● Grade-III (Severe)
This is the severest injury to the ankle as one or more ligaments get torn. You will experience a lot of pain and will be unable to move your ankle.
What causes a sprained ankle?
Any movement that stretches your ankle more than normal can cause damage to a ligament in such a way that it gets stretched or wholly or partially torn. This usually happens when the foot gets twisted or turned inwards.
Some of the common causes for a sprain in the ankle include:
- Landing the foot in an improper manner while running, stepping up or down, or performing any other activity.
- Stepping on an uneven surface while walking or running, such as a hole.
- Another person accidentally stepping on your ankle or foot, especially during a sports activity.
- Landing awkwardly on your foot while pivoting or jumping.
Symptoms of a sprained ankle
The signs and symptoms of a sprained ankle usually depend on the severity of the injury. However, the inflammation caused by the sprain of the ankle can bring about the following symptoms:
- The ankle may be so swollen that the area leaves an indent when pressed with your finger.
- The foot nerves are more sensitive after a sprain. The discomfort increases when you press the area with your finger, stand, walk, or move your foot in a certain direction.
- A sprain leads to increased blood flow to the area causing redness and warmth.
- If the ligament is torn, the joint can feel weak and unstable.
- The severity of the sprain may limit the movement of your foot and cause trouble walking.
- You may also experience a throbbing sensation in the affected area.
Complications due to a sprained ankle
If the sprained ankle is left untreated or you resume activities too soon after a sprain, or you get hurt on the same area repeatedly, it can lead to various complications like:
- The chronic ankle joint instability.
- Arthritis on the joint.
- Injury to the other ankle because of changes in your walk.
- Chronic ankle pain.
Risk factors associated with a sprained ankle
While children, teenagers, and women are more likely to get a sprained ankle, some people are at an increased risk of injuring their ankle. You might be one of them if you:
- Engage in outdoor sports activities such as football, cricket, basketball, and tennis.
- Walk or run on uneven surfaces.
- Had a sprained ankle before or any other ankle injury.
- Wear improper shoes for any specific activity.
- Have poor flexibility and strength in your ankles.
How to prevent a sprained ankle?
You are more likely to hurt your sprained ankle again. So, you need to follow these preventive measures:
- Keep your ankle flexible and strong by following strengthening exercises recommended by your physiotherapist.
- If you are engaged with some kind of sport, tape up the affected area to get some extra support for the ankle. Use a brace if you have had multiple sprains.
- Make sure to avoid any uneven surfaces or holes when you are walking or running.
- Wear the right type of shoe for the right kind of activity for proper support to your ankle.
Treatment of a sprained ankle
The ultimate objective of treating a sprained ankle is to reduce the swelling and pain, promote healing, and restore the ankle’s normal functioning. For Grade-III injury, you might be required to visit an orthopedic surgeon.
Home remedies for ankle pain
- Consider self-care tips for ankle pain if you do not observe the following symptoms:
- You notice a deformity or dislocation in the ankle joint
- You have severe pain in the ankle region
- You notice sudden and profuse swelling with bruising
- You see a colour change with the loss of sensation in the ankle region
- You cannot put any weight on the ankle
- Removing toe rings and anklets will help you control swelling and reduce ankle pain
The RICE method is one of the standard home remedies for ankle pain, which may be because of a sprained ankle. RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.
- Rest – Use an external aid to avoid putting pressure or weight on the ankle. Avoid moving the ankle. You may use crutches to walk if you must.
- Ice – The application of ice can arrest inflammation and relieve pain. Use an ice bag for a minimum duration of 20 minutes up to five times daily. Keep a gap of 90 minutes between two sessions. Avoid direct application of ice on the affected area. The proper application of ice will help reduce swelling and pain.
- Compression – Use a compression bandage to wrap the ankle. Avoid wrapping too tightly, else it will cause numbness, and the toe may turn blue.
- Elevation – Slight elevation of the ankle while lying on the bed can prevent inflammation and pain. Use the support of a couple of pillows beneath the ankle to raise it above the heart level.
Using a compression bandage for ankle pain
You can use a compression bandage to manage swelling and pain in an ankle injury. Start wrapping the compression bandage from the tow and wrap it around the feet and ankle to cover the entire skin. Cover half the width of every layer with the next one.
The following home care tips are helpful in arthritis of the ankle and if the sprain is not the reason for ankle pain:
- Learn simple stretching exercises. It will help you improve and maintain your range of motion.
- Follow a healthy diet to maintain the body’s nutritional status.
- It is necessary to stay active by performing moderate and regular exercises.
- Aim for an ideal body mass index to reduce the pressure on the ankle.
There are several over-the-counter medicines to reduce ankle pain. Use any of these after consulting your doctor.
Whether the ankle pain is because of a sprain or arthritis, consult your doctor to assess the condition.
Since a sprained ankle creates difficulty while walking, you may need crutches until the pain subsides. Your doctor may even recommend a sports tape, an elastic bandage, or an ankle brace to get support for the ankle. If you have severe pain, you may need a walking boot or cast to immobilize the ankle until the tissues heal.
Once the pain reduces enough to enable your ankle’s movement, your doctor might recommend a few exercises to restore the strength, flexibility, motion, and stability of the ankle. Stability and balance training by a physiotherapist can help you regain the normal movement of your sprained ankle.
If the sprain sustains for a long period without any improvement, even after rehabilitative exercises and physical therapy, your doctor might recommend surgery. This is rarely recommended to:
- Repair any damaged ligament that will not heal naturally.
- Reconstruct a damaged ligament by taking tissue from a nearby tendon or ligament.
Although ankle sprain is the most frequent cause of ankle pain, you can also experience ankle pain in other conditions such as nerve injuries, arthritis, or gout. Home remedies for ankle pain aim at relieving swelling and pain. It may require a period of up to two weeks or more for the discomforting symptoms to subside. The RICE method can help in most cases. Visit a doctor for the proper assessment of your ankle pain reason or if the symptoms are getting worse.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is it okay to walk on a sprained ankle?
Although you might be tempted to walk after a sprained ankle, it might cause more damage to the tendon or ligament and prolong recovery. So, you are recommended not to put pressure on your ankle unless advised by your doctor.
What helps a sprained ankle heal faster?
Following the RICE treatment method will help heal a sprained ankle faster. However, if your ankle’s condition is severe, you might be required to visit a doctor for proper treatment.
Should you wrap a sprained ankle overnight?
You can wrap an elastic bandage to your sprained ankle and leave it for 48 to 72 hours until the swelling subsides. But once the swelling reduces, you should unwrap the bandage immediately, or it can lead to long-term problems such as osteoarthritis.
How long should you wait to walk on a sprained ankle?
Most sprained ankles without any torn ligament heal within a couple of weeks. Even if you are unable to apply absolute pressure on your foot, the pain and discomfort usually subside. However, if ligaments get wholly or partially torn, it can take weeks to walk normally.
Should I sleep with my ankle support?
Ankle supports and braces are primarily used for daytime relief and protection to the ankle. However, if you are experiencing extreme pain and discomfort, and if the ankle support provides some relief to your joints, you can sleep with ankle support.