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Ankle Sprain

What Is an Ankle Sprain?

The most common of all ankle injuries, an ankle sprain occurs when the ligaments surrounding the ankle joint are stretched beyond their ability to withstand the force and end up tearing. The tear can be minor or major and the recovery time generally depends on the degree of the sprain.

What Causes Ankle Sprains?

The most common cause of an ankle sprain is applying weight to the foot when it is either inverted or everted position. Commonly, this happens while running or jumping on an uneven surface. The foot rolls in (inversion) or out (eversion) and the ligaments are stretched. Occasionally a loud "snap" or "pop" is heard at the time of the sprain. This is usually followed by pain and swelling of the ankle. This type of sprain, while sometimes due to a lack of lower limb strength, endurance or flexibility, is also often the result of a lack of balance or proprioception, to be exact.
Ankle Sprain Severity

Ankle sprains are generally classified by the degree of severity. These include:
  • Grade I - stretch and/or minor tear of the ligament without laxity (loosening).
  • Grade II - tear of ligament plus some laxity.
  • Grade III - complete tear of the affected ligament (very loose).
Treating Ankle Sprains

For immediate relief, you can use the R.I.C.E. treatment plan. Rest, ice, compression and elevation. While there is general agreement that the best approach to an ankle sprain is immediate rest, there is some conflicting advice about what comes next. Many experts still believe ice, compression and elevation help healing, but some are questioning this approach. Until definitive answers are available, the following approach is still the most widely recommended.
  • Rest. Avoid weight bearing for 24 hours or longer for a severe sprain.
  • Ice. Apply ice (bagged, crushed ice wrapped in a thin towel) to the ankle joint. To avoid frostbite, ice should not be left on the area longer than 20 minutes at a time. Ice 20 minutes every 2 hours for the first 24 hours to control swelling.
  • Compression. Wrap the ankle with an elastic bandage (start at the toes and wrap up to the calf) to help prevent swelling and edema.
  • Elevation. Raise the ankle above the hip or heart to reduce swelling.
  • If swelling doesn't subside in 48 to 72 hours, seek medical treatment for a complete evaluation.
  • If unable to weight bear within 48 hours, seek medical treatment
Ankle Sprain Rehab Exercises

After the initial 24 - 48 hours of rest and icing, you slowly begin weight bearing over several days as tolerated. Continue using crutches to avoid full weight bearing during this phase. Gradually progressing to full weight bearing as tolerated. Try to use a normal heel-toe gait when you do start weight bearing. Continue using an ankle brace to protect the joint from re-injury. Rehabilitation exercises should be begun as soon as tolerated, without pain. Range of motion (ROM) exercises should be begun early in the course of treatment. One simple ROM exercise is to draw the letters of the alphabet with your toes. Gradual progression to other weight bearing exercises should follow shortly after.Any ankle injury that does not respond to treatment in 1-2 weeks may be more serious. Always consult a physician for a thorough evaluation and diagnosis.

Learn more: http://sportsmedicine.about.com/cs/ankle/a/ankle2.htm