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Sudden twisting of the ankle, such as:
- Stepping on an uneven surface or in a hole
- Taking an awkward step when running, jumping, or stepping up or down
- Having your ankle roll over when playing sports or exercising—called inversion of the foot
- Playing sports, especially with the wrong type of shoe
- Walking on uneven surfaces
- Weak ankles from a previous sprain
- Poor coordination
- Poor balance
- Poor muscle strength and tight ligaments
- Loose joints
- Certain footwear, such as high heels
- Pain, swelling, and bruising around the ankle
- Worsening of pain when walking, standing, pressing on the sore area, or moving the ankle inward
- An inability to move the ankle joint without pain
- A popping or tearing sound at the time of the injury
- Inability to move the ankle without significant pain
- Inability to put any weight on that foot
- Significant swelling or bruising
- Pain over a bony part of your foot or ankle
- Pain that interferes significantly with walking
- Pain not relieved by ice, pain relief medication, and elevation
- Numbness in the leg, foot, or ankle
- Pain that does not improve in 5-7 days
- Uncertainty about the severity of the injury
- Uncertainty about how to care for this injury
- Some minor tearing of ligament tissue
- Ankle remains stable
- Partial tearing of ligament tissue
- Mild instability of the joint
- Usually involves damage to 2 ankle ligaments
- Complete tearing of 2 or 3 of the ligaments
- Significant instability of the joint
- Rest—Activities may need to be restricted. Normal activities will be gradually reintroduced as the injury heals.
- Ice—Ice therapy may help relieve swelling.
- Compression—Compression bandages can provide gentle pressure to help move fluids out of the area.
- Elevation—Keeping the ankle elevated can help fluids drain out or prevent fluids from building up.
- Protection—A brace or walking boot may be advised to prevent the ankle from moving as it heals. A short leg cast may be advised in severe cases, but this is rare.
- Take a break from sports or exercise when you feel tired.
- Do exercises that improve your balance and strengthen leg and foot muscles.
- Learn the proper technique for exercise and sporting activities. This will decrease stress on all your muscles, ligaments, and tendons, including those around your ankle.
- If you have injured your ankle before, you are more likely to injure it again. You may reduce your risk of repeated sprains by wearing an ankle brace and by doing certain balance exercises.
- Wear appropriate footwear when playing sports to avoid injury.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 02/2016
- Update Date: 02/06/2015