A sprain is a stretched or torn ligament. Ligaments are the tissues that connect bone to bone at a joint. A strain is a stretched or torn muscle or tendon. Tendons are tissues that connect muscle to bone.
Ankle injuries are among the most common sprains and strains, but ankle strains are far less common than sprains. Every day in the U.S. 25,000 people sprain their ankles and more than 1 million people go to the emergency room every year because of ankle injuries. Ankle injuries are most common among men between 15 and 24 years old, because most ankle sprains occur during athletic activity.
• Localized pain of the ankle
• Swelling of the ankle
• Bruising of the ankle
• Limited range of motion
• A popping sound or sensation
• Intense pain at the time of the injury
Q: How does an ankle strain happen?
A: It frequent occurs when an individual falls or twists the ankle out of its normal position. The problem is common with people who are physically active but can also occur when someone is not steady on their feet, wear high heels, or step on uneven ground or flooring.
Q: How long does it take for an ankle strain to heal?
A: Ankle strain healing time will depend on the degree of injury; however, most will recover within three weeks when the injury is rested and treated with ice applications. If the injury is more severe, it can take months to heal and may require physician care.
Q: Can you walk on a strained ankle?
A: While you may be able to physically walk on a strained ankle, you will deter healing and possibly cause further injury.
Sprains are categorized to determine the type of treatment the injury should receive. The 3 classifications are grade 1, grade 2 and grade 3, which respectively coincide with mild, moderate and severe sprains.
Grade 1 sprains are commonly treated with the RICE (Rest Ice Compression Elevation) method for several days. With a mild sprain you should be able to put weight on the ankle within one to three days to start strengthening and flexibility exercises.
Grade 2 sprains are also treated with the RICE method, but your doctor may choose to give you a splint or cast to immobilize the ankle. As you begin to regain range of motion and strength, physical therapy may be prescribed to help you regain your full range of motion and strength in the affected ankle.
Grade 3 sprains often involve a complete tear or rupture of a ligament and this often takes much longer to heal. Severe sprains are treated with full immobilization of the ankle and a much longer period of physical therapy. If the sprain does not heal after a period of time surgery may be required to repair the torn or ruptured ligament.
The degree of severity is indicated by a grade. If the ligament is stretched, the physician will indicate a degree 1 sprain. If the ligament is partially torn, that is a level 2 sprain. Fully torn ligaments are level 3 and take the longest to heal. While most sprains will heal with rest, ice and physical therapy, some cases may require surgery if they don't heal properly.