An ankle sprain is a partial or complete tear of the ligaments that support the ankle. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that cross joints and connect bones to each other.
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Ankle sprains may be caused by:
Factors that increase your chance of getting an ankle sprain include:
Symptoms of an ankle sprain may include:
An ankle sprain may not require a visit to the doctor. However, you should call your doctor if you have any of the following:
You will be asked about your symptoms and how your injury occurred. An examination of your ankle will be done to assess the injury.
Ankle sprains are graded according to the damage to the ligaments. The more ligaments involved, the more severe the injury.
The ankle will need time to heal. Supportive care may include:
Over-the-counter medications may be advised to reduce pain.
A physical therapist will assess the ankle. An exercise program will be created to help recovery and to strengthen the muscles around the ankle.
Surgery is rarely needed to repair an ankle sprain. However, it may be necessary to repair a third degree sprain in which all 3 ligaments are torn.
Many ankle sprains cannot be prevented. However, you can reduce your risk of spraining an ankle:
American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
OrthoInfo—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Ankle sprain. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated January 30, 2015. Accessed March 3, 2015.
Kemler E, van de Port I, et al. A systematic review on the treatment of acute ankle sprain: brace versus other functional treatment types. Sports Med. 2011;41(3):185-197.
Kerkhoffs GM, Handoll HH, et al. Surgical versus conservative treatment for acute injuries of the lateral ligament complex of the ankle in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007 Apr 18;(2):CD000380.
Sprained ankle. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00150. Updated September 2012. Accessed March 3, 2015.
Sprains and strains. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Sprains_Strains/default.asp. Published July 2012. Accessed March 3, 2015.
10/26/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Massey T, Derry S, Moore R, McQuay H. Topical NSAIDs for acute pain in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010;(6):CD007402.
11/19/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed : van Rijn RM, van Ochten J, Luijsterburg PA, van Middelkoop M, Koes BW, Bierma-Zeinstra SM. Effectiveness of additional supervised exercises compared with conventional treatment alone in patients with acute lateral ankle sprains: systematic review. BMJ. 2010;341:c5688.
9/10/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Mosher TJ, Kransdorf MJ, et al. ACR Appropriateness Criteria acute trauma to the ankle online publication]. Reston (VA): American College of Radiology (ACR);2014. 10 p. Available at: http://www.guideline.gov/content.aspx?id=48284#Section420. Accessed March 3, 2015.
Last reviewed March 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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