Dr. Christine Seaworth, a fellowship-trained foot and ankle surgeon in Knoxville, Tennessee, discusses the common causes of ankle sprains and treatment options to help with the pain in this patient education article.
An ankle sprain is a stretching or tearing of the ligaments that support the bones around your ankle. Ligaments are strong and tough bands of tissue that connect bones to hold them in place so they interact with each other correctly. They allow the bones to stay in and glide in the correct pathway to provide smooth motion.
The sprain can be very minor to severe with complete rupture. Most sprains are very minor and will improve in a few days to weeks and can be treated with just rest, compression, and ice. However, if you are having trouble putting weight onto the foot and ankle or you heard a pop, it is important to have the injury assess by a medical professional to ensure the bones are not broken.
Common ways of spraining your ankle include stepping in a hole or curb, walking on uneven ground, fall down the stairs, sporting activities, ice, and shoes with a high heel.
Your doctor’s visit will include a physical exam to carefully locate any tender regions on the ankle as well as X-rays to ensure nothing has fractured. Once it is determined you have endured a sprain and not a broken bone, treatment will be initiated.
Most people with a sprain severe enough to come to the doctor's office will need an ankle brace, a walking boot, or even crutches. Physical therapy will be started to help improve pain, increase motion and strength, and to decrease the risk of repeat injuries. Some patients with severe injuries may go on to multiple ankle sprains which can lead to cartilage injuries, further ligament tears, and even arthritis. Even severe sprains however can go to heal well and not require surgery.
Some patients with recurrent ankle sprains and pain may however need surgery if they had torn cartilage or failed physical therapy. MRI of the ankle is usually ordered to assess the extent of injury and problems to form the surgical plan. Surgical treatments commonly include ankle arthroscopy to treat any injuries inside the ankle joint along with repair or reconstruction of the ankle ligaments to provide a stiffer more stable joint.
University Orthoped Surgeons offers personalized foot and ankle expertise
If you're ready to discuss your possible ankle sprain and treatment options with our specialty-trained foot and ankle surgeon, Dr. Christine Seaworth visit us at our UT Medical Center, West Knoxville, or Sevierville locations. You can request an appointment online or call (865) 546-2663 for our UT Medical Center and Sevierville offices, (865) 218-9300 for our West Knoxville office. Telemedicine appointments are also available by request.