What is a Lateral Ankle Sprain?

A lateral ankle sprain occurs when the ligaments on the outside of the joint become stretched and injured. Symptoms of this condition include immediate pain, followed by inflammation and bruising. There are three grades of lateral ankle sprain, with grade one sprains being the least severe. Initial treatment focuses on controlling any swelling, which is often achieved through icing and elevating the ankle. When the initial pain and inflammation begins to disappear, a rehabilitation program to increase range of motion and strength is usually required.

A lateral ankle sprain is the most common form of sprain on that part of the body. Medial ligament sprains, which affect the inside of the joint, can occur, but are much less common. Lateral sprains are often the result of the ankle rolling outwards, so that the bottom of the foot faces inwards. This stretches the ligaments on the outer side, resulting in a sprain. Those who take part in fast-paced sports, especially activities which require a lot of turning, are most likely to suffer from this type of injury.

Symptoms of a lateral ankle sprain include pain and swelling. Grade one tears involve minor damage to the ligaments, and usually only cause mild pain. Grade two tears, which are more severe, cause greater pain and some instability in the ankle. Bruising and large amounts of swelling are also common with grade two tears. If a ligament is completely ruptured, known as a grade three sprain, there will be severe pain, followed by a large amount of swelling, instability, and bruising.

Treatment for a lateral ankle sprain depends on the severity of the injury. The process usually begins with the RICE formula, i.e., rest, ice, compression, and elevation; this helps to control swelling and pain. It is important for a person suffering from a lateral ankle sprain to visit a physiotherapist to get a professional assessment; additional treatment may be required in the case of a severe sprain. Ultrasound therapy, for example, is sometimes used to reduce swelling.

Once the initial pain has begun to subside, rehabilitation from a lateral ankle sprain is important. A physiotherapist will often recommend exercises to maintain the joint’s range of motion. Simple techniques, such as moving the ankle in small circles, can be effective. Strengthening the ankle, once the initial period of rest is over, is also essential to avoid recurrence of the injury.


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