Ankle sprains are common sports injuries but also happen during everyday activities. An unnatural twisting motion of the ankle joint can happen when the foot is planted awkwardly, when the ground is uneven, or when an unusual amount of force is applied to the joint.
How It Happens
Ankle sprains happen when the foot twists, rolls or turns beyond its normal motions. A great force is transmitted upon landing. You can sprain your ankle if the foot is planted unevenly on a surface, beyond the normal force of stepping. This causes the ligaments to stretch beyond their normal range in an abnormal position.
The signs of an ankle sprain can include:
- pain or tenderness
- coldness or numbness in the foot
- inability to walk or bear weight on the joint
The severity of an ankle sprain depends on how badly the ligaments are stretched or torn. If the sprain is mild, there may not be much pain or swelling, and the ligaments may only be stretched. If the sprain is severe, one of more ligaments may be torn, and the join may be severely swollen. A severe sprain can also be extremely painful.
When to Seek Medical Care
If any of the following occur, contact your doctor.
- Pain is uncontrolled, despite the used of over-the-counter medications, elevation, and ice.
- The injured person is unable to walk or cannot walk more than a few steps without severe pain.
- The ankle fails to improve within five to seven days. The pain need not be gone, but it should be improving.
The indications to go to a hospital’s emergency department are similar to those for which to call the doctor. The following conditions suggest a fracture or more serious injury or that a splint may be needed for pain control:
- There is severe or uncontrolled pain.
- The injured ankle cannot be moved.
- The foot or ankle is misshapen beyond normal swelling.
- The injured person cannot walk four steps, even with a limp.
- Severe pain felt when pressing over the medial or lateral malleolus, the bony bumps on each side of the ankle.
- There is loss of feeling in the foot or toes.
- There is pain and swelling in the back of the ankle (heel pain), over the Achilles tendon area, or the inability to push the toes down (forward-like pressing a gas pedal).
- There is pain or swelling into the upper part of the lower leg just below the knee or swelling of the calf muscle.
- Redness or red streaks spreading out from the injury are observed.
- You don’t know how serious the injury may be or are unsure how to care for it.
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