Early symptoms of ankle sprains

The early symptoms of an ankle sprain – that is, the way in which many people are able to tell they’ve sprained an ankle – include hearing a ‘pop’ at the time of injury. However, this is not always the case. Therefore, it is important to keep an eye out for other signs that you have stretched or torn one or more of your ankle ligaments (the somewhat elastic tissue bands that keep the ankle bones in their places).

Ankle sprain symptoms include:

·         Pain, in particular when bearing weight on the injured foot.

·         Swelling, and maybe bruising.

·         Tenderness.

·         Limited range-of-motion.

·         Instability.

·         Loss of functional ability.

A sprain takes place when the ankle is forced out its normal position, for example if the foot rolls onto the outside – or less frequently, the inside – of the ankle. Certain sports activities increase the risk of spraining an ankle, such as:

·         Basketball.

·         Tennis.

·         Football.

·         Soccer.

·         Trail running.

·         Basically any sport that entails rolling or twisting the foot (especially if you are overweight).

Notwithstanding that, it would be a mistake to believe that only athletes can suffer this type of injury. On the contrary, this is one of the most common injuries in the United States, with hundreds of thousands to millions of cases – depending on the source – being reported every year. Other factors that can contribute to an ankle sprain are:

·         A fall that cause the ankle to twist.

·         Landing awkwardly on the foot after jumping or pivoting.

·         Walking on an uneven surface.

·         A previous ankle injury.

A person who has sprained his or her ankle should see a healthcare professional if they:

·         Are in severe pain.

·         Can’t place any weight on the affected joint.

·         Find the affected area to look crooked or with lumps and bumps – in addition to swelling – not visible on the uninjured joint.

·         Can’t move the affected joint.

·         Can’t walk more than 4 steps without considerable pain.

·         Find their limb buckles or gives way when trying to use the joint.

·         Experience numbness in any part of the affected area.

·         See redness or red streaks radiating from the injured area.

·         Experience pain, swelling, or redness on a bony area of the foot.

·         Are not sure how serious the injury is or how to manage it.

A doctor will take into account the early symptoms of ankle sprains as well as any prior history of injury. He or she will physically check the ankle to look for any of the following:

·         Swelling.

·         Tenderness.

·         Deformity.

·         Pain.

·         Insensitivity.

·         Discoloration.

·         Instability.

·         Limited range-of-motion.

·         Inability to bear weight.

Additionally, x-rays, MRI, or a CT scan may be used. This will all help the physician establish the severity of the injury and grade it accordingly. There are three grades of ankle sprains.

Grade I

A mild sprain in which the ligaments slightly stretch. Symptoms include soreness and some swelling. There is little ligament damage and loss of function.

Expected duration: 1-2 weeks too fully heal

Grade II

A moderate sprain in which the ligaments partly tear. The ankle may feel loose and painful and may remain swollen for a while. There is moderate ligament damage and placing weight on the joint may be difficult.

Expected duration: up to 6 weeks to fully heal

Grade III

A serious sprain in which the ankle ligaments are completely torn. Severe pain, swelling, looseness, and unsteadiness are some of the symptoms. The person will be unlikely to be able to put any weight on the foot.

Expected duration: 6 months or longer to fully heal.


The grade determines whether the sprain is a minor injury that requires little care, or a more serious occurrence that can bring about further complications if not treated. Such complications include these:

·         Chronic pain.

·         Chronic ankle joint instability.

·         Early-onset arthritis.

Ankle sprain treatment options




·         Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate (RICE).

·         Anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen.

·         Avoiding sports that require running, cutting, or stopping quickly.

·         Stretching and strengthening exercises.


·         Elastic bandage.

·         Air splint.


·         Splint, cast, or brace.


Additionally, the patient may have to use crutches throughout the healing process to avoid the pain of walking on an injured ankle. More often than not, though, treating a sprained ankle is a matter of patience and compliance to the doctor’s orders. See a doctor and follow his/her instructions carefully if you cannot place weight on an ankle or if the injured ankle is noticeably deformed. And prevent injury by observing the following measures:

·         Keep ankles flexible and leg muscles strong by running, cycling or swimming.

·         Warm up and use stretching techniques recommended by a coach, doctor, or PE teacher prior to playing sports, exercising, or doing any other kind of physical activity.

·         Walk carefully on uneven or cracked surfaces.

·         Wear shoes that fit properly.

·         Do balance exercises.

·         Avoid sharp, sudden turns and changes in direction.

·         Avoid exercising or playing sports if tired or in pain.

·         Eat a healthy diet to keep muscles strong.

·         Keep a healthy weight.

·         Keep stairways, walkways, yards, and driveways clutter-free.

·         Anchor scatter rugs.

·         Salt or sand icy sidewalks and driveways in the winter.

Related: Sport Stirrup Ankle Brace Product Review