Ankle Sprain


An ankle sprain occurs when the ligaments that hold the ankle together are stretched or torn, while an ankle strain occurs when the tendons of the ankle are stretched or torn. Both injuries can result from rolling or twisting the ankle in an unnatural movement.

The Ankle

The ankle joint is composed of three bones, the talus, tibia, and fibula. The lower portion of the tibia, or shin bone, forms the medial malleolus, which is the bump on the inside of the ankle. The fibula is the smaller of the two bones in the lower leg and its lower end forms the lateral malleolus, which is the bump on the outside of the ankle. The talus, which is a bone located on the top of the foot, makes up the mortise of the ankle joint.  The ankle joint is controlled by several muscles. The ankle ligaments are the elastic tissue bands that connect bone-to-bone. Their job is to keep the joint stabilized so that no excessive movement occurs.


Awkward twisting or rolling of the ankle causes the ligaments and tendons that stabilize the ankle joint to stretch beyond their normal range of motion and often causes them to tear. Depending on how far beyond the normal range of motion the ankle is stretched, or torn, determines the severity of the sprain or strain. Common situations that result in ankle sprains and strains include a fall that causes your ankle to twist, landing unnaturally on your foot after jumping or pivoting, and walking or exercising on an uneven surface.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of an ankle sprain or strain include pain- especially when bearing weight, swelling, bruising, restricted range of motion, and sometimes hearing or feeling a “pop” at the time the injury occurs.


Treatment for a sprained ankle depends on the severity of the sprain.  Ankle strains and most sprains can be treated at home with rest, ice, compression, elevation, and help from anti-inflammatory medications to reduce pain and swelling. Physical therapy may be indicated to help recovery. Generally, surgical procedures are not needed to treat a sprained or strained ankle.  However, if the tear is severe enough, surgery may be required to repair the affected ligament or tendon.

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