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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.
Images are not always needed if your doctor is confident that you do not have a fracture. If images are needed, this can be done with x-rays. If additional details are needed, other images may be done, such as a CT scan or an MRI scan.
Ankle sprains are graded according to the damage to the ligaments. If there are more ligaments damaged, the injury is likely more severe.
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:
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Sports Med—American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Ankle sprain. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113633/Ankle-sprain. Updated February 2, 2018. Accessed February 26, 2018.
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. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00150. Updated February 2016. Accessed February 26, 2018.
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. Updated January 30, 2015. Accessed February 26, 2018.
10/26/2010 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillancehttp://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113633/Ankle-sprain: 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 Plus Systematic Literature Surveillancehttp://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113633/Ankle-sprain: 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 Plus Systematic Literature Surveillancehttp://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113633/Ankle-sprain: 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 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Alan Drabkin, MD Last Updated: 2/6/2015