This is an overstretching and possibly tearing of the ankle ligaments usually due to trauma. It may occur on the outside (most commonly) or the inside of the ankle. Many people get repeated ankle sprains from minor traumatic events. This is usually because they never got proper rehabilitation for a previous ankle sprain and this left the ankle ligaments weak and prone to re-injury.
When ankle sprains occur the ankle may swell and become discolored (back and blue). If you have a lot of swelling and the ankle is painful to walk on, you should have x-rays to make sure there is not a fracture
After a full medical history we do an orthopedic examination of the ankle and related areas. This is important because we have to make sure that your ankle is stable. An ankle can be unstable when the ligaments are severely sprained. In the case of instability we will refer you to an orthopedic surgeon. We also order x-rays if needed and advanced imaging (MRI) if needed.
Early treatment of ankle sprains involves resting and icing the ankle. Elevation and compression (taping, bracing) of the ankle may also be necessary. These measures result in reduction of inflammation including the swelling. Never use heat on a newly sprained ankle! This will make you condition worse. We may also recommend that you use crutches when you walk.
With older sprains and people who sprain their ankles repeatedly we give you rehabilitative exercises for the ankle. This involves some type of balance exercise which could be done on the floor or on a balance device like a rocker board, a wobble board or balance shoes.
Cross fiber friction massage is very important for all ankle sprains when they are healing. Cross fiber friction helps keep the scar tissue that normally forms in an ankle sprain from weakening the ankle.
The rehabilitative exercise and the cross fiber friction massage are essential in the treatment of ankle sprains. They both help the ankle heal fully and prevent future injury. Preventing re-injury through proper rehabilitation is the most important but overlooked issue in treating an ankle sprain. People incorrectly assume that once the pain is gone that their ankle has healed. This is not the case as the ankle must be strengthened back to its pre-injury state.
In terms of acute (new) ankle sprains the other treatments would be casting if you have a fracture.