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Ankle Sprains - What's Normal and What Isn't?

Sweeney Foot & Ankle Ankle Sprains What's Normal and What Isn't Doctor Looking at Athlete's Ankle

Sprains and strains are an unfortunate side effect of living a busy life. Even the most careful among us can occasionally twist an ankle or land too hard while working out or playing sports.


Most of these minor sprains can be treated at home. But when should you turn to a medical professional? 


Why Sprains Occur

The term “sprain” is reserved for injuries involving ligaments, the tissue connecting bones or joints. When your ankle is forced into a position outside its usual range of motion, it can temporarily damage the ligaments connecting your ankle bones.  

Sometimes sprains happen during vigorous activity, like playing soccer or basketball, when your foot makes a sudden pivot outside its normal range. But it can also happen on a casual stroll, if you twist your ankle while stepping into a hole, or off an unexpected curb. Sometimes just walking on uneven terrain can stress your ankle enough to cause ligament damage.

Signs of an Ankle Sprain

Normal sprains often respond well to home treatment. Symptoms of an ankle sprain that usually don’t require a medical professional include:

  • Feeling a pop at the moment of injury
  • Inability to turn your foot within its normal range of motion
  • Tenderness when you touch the affected area
  • Pain or instability when you attempt to walk
  • Swelling on the outside of your ankle
  • Bruising around the injury point

How to Treat a Minor Ankle Injury

It might be alarming to watch your ankle swell. But that’s actually a normal sign that your body is reacting in the right way, by sending healing nutrients to the injury. You can aid this healing process by doing the “RICE” method:

  • Rest your ankle as much as possible.
  • Ice the injury every few hours, for about 15-20 minutes each session. 
  • Compress the area with a bandage to control swelling.
  • Elevate your foot on some pillows whenever you can.

When to Seek More Help

Knowing the difference between a sprained ankle that will soon be on the mend, and an ankle injury that needs more assessment, can help prevent long-term problems with your ankle.


Obviously, if you can see bones protruding near the skin, a break has occurred. But sometimes the difference between a ligament sprain and a broken bone is not so obvious. If the injury has just happened, you can do a bit of self-assessment. A break will make it impossible for you to put weight on your foot, even after several hours. The pain might also be severe, as will the swelling and bruising. If these symptoms are occurring,  immediately go to your physician or an urgent care center to have an exam and X-ray.

But sometimes the problem is not that a break or fracture has occurred, but rather that the sprain isn’t healing at the expected rate. Any of these issues might require more attention:

  • You still can’t put much weight on the injured foot after a few days.
  • Progress on your healing stops, even when using the RICE method.
  • You can’t get back to even modified versions of your former activities, whether it’s just walking across a parking lot, or practicing with your team.
  • Pain, bruising or swelling doesn’t improve, or it gets worse.

Not sure if you need more treatment than the usual home remedies? Contact us today so that we can help you avoid any long-term fallout from that ankle injury.