An ankle sprain is a partial or complete tear of the ligaments that support the ankle. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that cross joints and connect bones to each other.
Ankle sprains may be caused by:
Factors that increase your chance of getting an ankle sprain include:
Symptoms of an ankle sprain may include:
An ankle sprain may not require a visit to the doctor. However, you should call your doctor if you have any of the following:
You will be asked about your symptoms and how your injury occurred. An examination of your ankle will be done to assess the injury.
Images are not always needed if your doctor is confident that you do not have a fracture. If images are needed, this can be done with x-rays. If additional details are needed, other images may be done, such as a CT scan or an MRI scan.
Ankle sprains are graded according to the damage to the ligaments. If there are more ligaments damaged, the injury is likely more severe.
The ankle will need time to heal. Supportive care may include:
Over-the-counter medications may be advised to reduce pain.
A physical therapist will assess the ankle. An exercise program will be created to help recovery and to strengthen the muscles around the ankle.
Many ankle sprains cannot be prevented. However, you can reduce your risk of spraining an ankle:
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Sports Med—American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
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10/26/2010 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113633/Ankle-sprain: Massey T, Derry S, Moore R, McQuay H. Topical NSAIDs for acute pain in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010;(6):CD007402.
11/19/2010 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113633/Ankle-sprain: van Rijn RM, van Ochten J, Luijsterburg PA, van Middelkoop M, Koes BW, Bierma-Zeinstra SM. Effectiveness of additional supervised exercises compared with conventional treatment alone in patients with acute lateral ankle sprains: systematic review. BMJ. 2010;341:c5688.
9/10/2014 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113633/Ankle-sprain: Mosher TJ, Kransdorf MJ, et al. ACR Appropriateness Criteria acute trauma to the ankle online publication]. Reston (VA): American College of Radiology (ACR);2014. 10 p. Available at: http://www.guideline.gov/content.aspx?id=48284#Section420. Accessed March 3, 2015.
Last reviewed February 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Alan Drabkin, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.