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Lateral Ankle Sprains

Annual Bone & Joint Section

Recovery from this common injury can be aided by conservative care.

Understanding Ankle Sprains

The ankle is a hinge joint surrounded by ligaments that provides stability and movement to the foot. A sprain occurs when these ligaments are forced beyond their normal range of motion, caused by a sudden twisting, turning, or rolling of the ankle to one side. Acute ankle sprains can range in severity, from a mild strain to a complete tear.

Ankle sprains are incredibly common, affecting 2 million people in the United States each year and accounting for up to 40% of all sports injuries. More than three-quarters of all acute ankle sprains are lateral, referring to the ligaments located on the outer side of the ankle.


Signs of a lateral ankle sprain may include:

  • Pain, especially when bearing weight
  • Swelling and/or bruising around the outside of the ankle
  • Tenderness to touch
  • Stiffness in the ankle joint
  • Difficulty standing or walking on the affected foot

Treatment and Outlook

woman sitting on pavement with sprained ankle

The recovery stage is important, as an untreated ankle sprain can cause chronic instability problems and recurrent sprains. A medical evaluation can determine the extent of the sprain and appropriate treatment. Surgery is rarely required for ankle sprains; instead, conservative care involving rest and rehabilitation is recommended. Rest, ice, compression, and elevation should be applied immediately after the sprain and during the healing process, while over-the-counter pain medication can help ease any discomfort. Rehabilitative exercises can help strengthen and restore the ankle’s function as it heals. While recovery time depends on the injury’s severity and ranges from a few weeks to a few months, proper care will ensure you return to regular activities with a strong, healed ankle.

An Expert Weighs In

“Previous injury is the biggest predictor of future injury. Make sure to take the time to retrain the nervous system and soft tissues after injury to decrease the incidence of future complications.”
callie lance
Callie Lance, DC, MS, CCSP, ART
Owner/Chiropractic Physician, Chattanooga Sports Chiropractic Institute, PLLC

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