Lateral ankle sprains are one of the most common injuries to the lower extremity. They typically result following a twisting injury to the ankle. The injury causes an actual tearing of one or more of the lateral ankle ligaments. This results in swelling, pain and bruising on the outside of the ankle and is usually accompanied by difficulty walking. Repeated injury to the ankle ligaments is commonly referred to as lateral ankle instability. This results in difficulty navigating uneven terrain when walking. Patients often complain of the ankle wanting to ‘give way’ when carrying out activities of daily living. Repeated sprains of the ankle can lead to osteochondral lesions of the ankle and peroneal tendon injuries.
Medial ankle sprains are much less common. They occur when an injury takes place at the deltoid ligament complex on the inside portion of the foot and ankle. These injuries can also lead to chronic pain and instability.
The initial treatment following an ankle sprain involves rest, ice and elevation. Immobilization is often required for a period of time as is medication to help with pain and swelling. Physical therapy is often necessary to regain strength and balance. In cases of chronic ankle instability and severe sprains, surgery may be indicated.