Warning Signs Of A Sprained Ankle

December 11, 2023

Sprained ankles occur when individuals turn, twist, or roll their ankles in a way they're not supposed to move. Doing this can cause the ligaments holding the ankle bones together to stretch or tear. Ligaments are tough tissues that help stabilize joints and prevent excessive movement. Sprained ankles occur when ligaments move beyond their average range of motion. A sprain is an injury to the ligaments, while a strain is an injury to muscles. The majority of sprained ankles occur when the ligaments on the outside of an ankle become injured. Some sprained ankles are mild, while others are more severe. The treatment varies depending on the severity. Some individuals might just need to rest, while others might need a more thorough medical evaluation.

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Swelling And Tenderness

A sprained ankle often occurs with some swelling and tenderness. There will often be pain when individuals put weight on the affected ankle, and it might also be tender when touched. The level of swelling will vary depending on how severe the injury is. Ankle swelling isn't always a sign of an ankle injury, but it should be monitored carefully if it follows an injury. Swelling occurs when fluid accumulates in the ankle. This condition is medically referred to as peripheral edema. In addition to occurring after an injury, the ankles may also become swollen after individuals been standing for a long time. Certain cardiovascular illnesses can cause leg swelling due to poor circulation. If individuals elevate their legs, and the swelling doesn't abate, they might want to talk to a doctor. One of the main at-home treatments for an ankle sprain is to elevate the affected leg and keep weight off it. If the pain remains severe, a doctor might order x-rays and other imaging tests to make sure the bone isn't broken.

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Foot Or Ankle Pain

Foot and ankle pain can often occur alongside a sprained ankle. When individuals roll an ankle, there will typically be a short and painful sensation that alerts them to the fact their foot has been hurt. If the injury wasn't severe, this sensation will typically abate after individuals regain their balance. In more serious cases, patients might experience continuing pain in their ankle or foot. It might become stronger or radiate up the individual's leg when they walk, causing a limp. If patients are limping seriously, it's a strong sign there has been damage to a tendon or ligament. The pain will vary depending on how severe the injury is. For some patients, it might feel like a stabbing or burning pain around the injury. This might get worse when they walk. Others describe the pain as a dull throbbing or aching. Regardless of the form the pain takes, if individuals have ongoing painful sensations after rolling an ankle, they need to rest.

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Feeling Unstable

An ankle sprain can cause instability in the ankle, which can make individuals feel unstable when they stand or walk. Ankle instability occurs when the outside of an ankle gives way as individuals walk. This can cause the affected foot to roll to the side. Unfortunately, this instability makes individuals more likely to injure an ankle again or injure themselves more severely as they're recovering from the initial injury. Individuals who experience ankle instability may need to wear a brace or cast on their affected ankle while they're recovering. A brace helps hold the foot in place and keep the ankle from rolling outward, preventing further injury and providing extra strength. Chronic ankle instability occurs when individuals have repeated ankle sprains that lead to permanent damage in the ankle. Many individuals deal with chronic ankle instability, including many athletes who have suffered sports injuries. Chronic ankle instability often causes ankles to turn repeatedly, persistent swelling and discomfort, tenderness or pain, and unstable or wobbly feelings when individuals walk or dance or play sports.

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Reduced Range Of Motion

An ankle sprain can lead to a reduced range of motion in the ankle. Like other symptoms, the severity of this depends on how serious the injury was. If the ligament was severely torn, patients might need physical therapy to regain range of motion after the healing process is over. When individuals experience the injury, they might find they can't move their ankle as far as they usually do without pain. Several other factors can contribute to a reduced range of motion in the ankles. If patients are undergoing treatment for chronic medical conditions like diabetes or neuropathy, they're more likely to have a reduced motion range, especially if they sprain an ankle. It's common to have a somewhat reduced range of motion during the healing process. However, if patients are still not able to move the affected ankle fully after other painful symptoms have abated, they might need to reach out to a physical therapist. They can determine the seriousness of the joint injury and develop a plan of action.

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Bruised Ankle

A sprained ankle will often be accompanied by bruising. This isn't always the case, but it is fairly common. If individuals roll one of their ankles and notice it's bruised later, they should keep an eye on the injury. This is particularly true if there's also pain or swelling. Bruising occurs alongside a sprained ankle when the injury leads to bleeding beneath the skin. Some ankle sprains can heal without needing medical treatment as long as patients rest. However, if they notice bruising around the injury, they should talk to a doctor. Bruises might appear purple or dark brown. The main goal when talking to a doctor will be to rule out more serious injuries, since breakages to the bone can also cause bruising. Doctors may order imaging tests, and if the sprain is severe, they may also create a more involved treatment plan.

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