The most obvious symptoms of a sprained ankle include pain, bruising, and swelling. Mild sprains usually make it difficult to walk without pain, while more severe sprains can make walking an impossible task, as the ankle may give out completely when weight is placed on it. If the pain spreads, or does not improve within a few days of the injury, it may be time to see a doctor. If the toes become numb and it seems impossible to place any weight on the foot, the ankle may be fractured, which is usually considered more serious than a sprain.
A mild ankle sprain causes the ligament to stretch just outside its comfort zone, resulting in tenderness and some swelling. Patients experiencing mild symptoms of a sprained ankle may walk with a limp, and are not usually able to be very active for a few days following the injury. If a bit more bruising is present, the ankle injury may be more serious, as this usually means that the ligament partially tore, resulting in some bleeding under the skin. This usually causes patients to only walk a few steps at a time since walking is painful.
One of the more serious symptoms of a sprained ankle is a foot that completely gives out when body weight is placed on it. This usually indicates a torn ligament, resulting in the ankle feeling too unstable to walk. On the other hand, if even the slightest amount of weight is too much for the ankle, and rest does not help it heal, it could be fractured instead. In such a case, the bone is broken instead of the ligament, usually requiring medical treatment, such as a cast. Numb toes or pain that spreads to the foot or lower leg can also indicate a broken bone rather than a sprain, and medical attention should be sought right away.
If the symptoms of a sprained ankle are present after an injury, it is important to rest the area for at least a few days. Ice can reduce swelling when applied for a few minutes several times per day, and elevating the ankle so that it is above heart level can help, as well. Most patients find that wrapping the ankle with a stretchy bandage is helpful, as it lends support to the area, making walking slightly less painful. Of course, the most severe symptoms of a sprained ankle usually call for a bit more medical treatment, such as a similar cast that is required of a fracture, and prescription pain medication.