Recognizing When You Have a Sprained Ankle

No one wants to deal with ankle pain, let alone a sprained ankle. Even though the problem may not seem substantial at first, sprained ankles can quickly worsen if you don’t treat them or try to walk on foot without waiting for them to recover.

As such, you must know when an ankle is sprained to treat it correctly. Otherwise, you may overlook the injury or try to receive hospital treatment when you don’t need it. Do your research, see what sprains entail, and learn the preventative measures to remain safe.

What Is a Sprained Ankle?

A sprained ankle is when you harm your ankle by stepping on it incorrectly. Usually, you face a sprained ankle when your foot turns toward your body and you step on the side. People refer to this as rolling their ankles since it mimics a rolling motion.

If you put too much pressure on your foot when it rolls, you’ll harm your ankle and face extensive pain if you try to walk on it. From there, you’ll need to follow the necessary steps for your ankle to recover from the damage, such as icing and resting it.

A Sprain vs. A Strain

You can’t assume every ankle injury leads to a sprain. If you don’t break your ankle, you’ll likely face a sprain or a strain. With that in mind, you should understand the differences to know what to look for if you encounter an ankle injury.

The Differences

Sprains and strains both involve injuries, but they apply to different parts of the ankles. Sprains refer to when you cause damage to your ligaments, which are the tissues that connect your feet to your ankles.

Strains mean causing damage to a muscle or tendon. You’ll usually twist, pull, or tear the muscle, causing discomfort.

Both injuries involve pain, but a sprain usually prevents you from walking, while a strain tends to have consistent pain. However, a bad strain can also prevent you from walking, which comes down to the pain in your ankle and how it feels when you try walking on it.

The Symptoms

If you sprain your ankle, you’ll immediately feel a stabbing pain around it. The stabbing pain will make it challenging to walk on the ankle. Usually, if you put weight on your ankle, the pain will become stronger, preventing you from walking.

If you get off your foot, you’ll have a consistent throbbing pain that only worsens if you move your ankle. You may struggle to even rotate your ankle or make slight movements, so you’ll want to minimize foot use when possible.

The ankle will start to swell, causing it to become significantly larger than the other ankle. The swelling will further reduce movement while causing your ankle to feel tender.

Strains can have similar problems, though the pain will be more consistent and less like a stab. It’ll feel like you stretched the muscle, causing discomfort and even preventing you from putting pressure on your foot, depending on the severity.

Either way, you’ll want to watch your ankle once injured. You should play it safe if you have consistent pain, so focus on staying off your ankle, applying ice, and wrapping it with gauze to prevent further movement.

The Severity Levels

As you look for the symptoms and identify a sprained ankle, you should consider the three severity levels to understand what you must do to treat it.

The first level involves mild symptoms, such as swelling or some tender areas. Even though it may hurt and feel uncomfortable to walk on your ankle, you can still do it when necessary, but you should still rest it.

The second level has moderate pain with swelling and potential bruises. However, the tear didn’t go fully through, so you won’t have as severe of symptoms. You also can’t really walk on a level two sprain since it’ll have consistent pain and discomfort.

The third level has the symptoms at the highest point, meaning you’ll have much pain, swelling, and bruising. You most likely won’t be able to walk on it, so you’ll feel extensive pain if you try to put any pressure on your foot.

Prevention Tactics

As you consider sprained ankles, you must consider the prevention tactics available. If you understand what causes the sprains to happen and how to minimize them, you’ll avoid unnecessary pain, discomfort, and recovery time.

  • Walk on stable surfaces
  • Avoid moving sideways when possible
  • Wear the right shoes

You should avoid walking on unstable surfaces. For example, if you walk on a sidewalk, don’t walk close to the curb since you can slip off and sprain your ankle. You should also watch the ground to avoid tripping over objects or anything else in your way.

If you try to step sideways while you walk, you could easily roll either of your feet with the way your ankles work. Instead, you should walk towards your destination and turn your body. Strafing sideways may seem convenient in your home, but doing so can lead to injuries.

Ensure you pick the right shoes for the occasion. For example, hiking shoes cover your ankles,  providing additional support while walking. Work boots can also help depending on the situation, so look into ankle support.

You’ll find more ways to prevent ankle sprains, so ensure you consider them and your situation. Finally, remain careful in unfamiliar areas and near slippery surfaces to avoid spraining your ankle while navigating those spaces.

Final Comments

If you recognize a sprained ankle, you’ll know how to care for it and minimize injuries immediately. While you’ll need to care for it for about a week, you’ll help yourself receive the correct treatment rather than run into unexpected issues later.

Once you know how to recognize a sprained ankle, you can take measures to avoid it. Do your best to go through those details, take care of yourself, and do what you can to minimize sprains and strains so you won’t face unnecessary pain and struggles. If you’re experiencing pain from a recently sprained or strained ankle, don’t hesitate to contact Teton Foot & Ankle for a full and comprehensive consultation.

Published online: Mar 02, 2023

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