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Ankle Instability/Sprains

When the ligaments that support the ankle are stretched too far and tear, the result is a sprained ankle. Sprains can be mild or severe, depending on how badly the ligaments have torn.

What causes it?

Ankle sprains can happen to anyone at any age. They’re often the result of an injury that happens when you roll, twist, or turn your ankle in an awkward way. Ligaments help stabilize joints and prevent excessive movement, and a sprained ankle occurs when the ligaments are forced beyond their normal range of motion. If you do not seek proper treatment for an ankle sprain from your Orthopedic and Sports Institute doctor, your ankle can weaken, and you’ll be prone to instability and more frequent sprains.

How do you know you have it?

The signs and symptoms of a sprained ankle vary depending on the severity, but they’re fairly standard and can’t be ignored:

  • Pain, especially when you bear weight on the affected foot
  • Tenderness when you touch the ankle
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Restricted range of motion
  • Instability in the ankle
  • Popping sensation or sound at the time of injury

How we fix it

The OSI foot and ankle team is here to listen, discuss your concerns, and examine you for signs and symptoms of an ankle sprain or instability. Our goal is to have you back on your feet, pain free, enjoying the activities you love. While you’re under our expert care, you may undergo the following to determine the best course of care:

  • Physical exam: You can expect your doctor to press around the ankle to determine which ligaments are damaged and where the pain occurs. The doctor may test your range of motion, but a stiff, swollen ankle usually doesn’t move much.
  • X-rays: Your doctor might order x-rays to rule out a broken bone in your ankle or foot, because a broken bone causes similar symptoms. If there is no broken bone, your sprain will be graded on a mild, moderate, or severe scale.

Nonsurgical Treatment

The good news is that most all ankle sprains can be treated without surgery, and it typically occurs in three phases:

  • Rest, protect, and ice to reduce swelling
    • This is the “RICE” stage — rest, ice, compression, and elevation — you’ve probably heard about. You’ll also want to take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and naproxen to help control pain and swelling.
  • Restoring range of motion, strength, and flexibility
    • This often involves physical therapy, and our doctors can give recommendations on exercises you can do at home.
  • Maintenance exercises and a gradual return to activity
    • Endurance and agility exercises can be added once you are pain free.

Surgical Treatment

An ankle sprain almost never requires surgery. However, if you experience months of chronic ankle instability or the sprain is severe enough, surgical options could be discussed. Ankle surgery options include:

  • Arthroscopy
  • Reconstruction


Recovery from an ankle sprain is typically no longer than 12 weeks, even for the most severe sprains. If surgery is required, a cast or boot might be used to immobilize and protect your ankle. Rehab and physical therapy is essential to help you regain strength and range of motion so you can return to normal activities.