A twisted ankle is an unofficial name for a sprained ankle, which occurs when the ligaments in the ankle joint become torn, either moderately or severely, causing pain, tenderness, swelling, and weakness. Athletes and children are quite susceptible to a twisted ankle injury because they are commonly active, though the twisted ankle can happen to anyone. People can miss a step on a set of stairs, for example, and sprain an ankle. Most sprained ankles heal on their own with rest and proper care, though more severe sprains may need more specific and prolonged medical attention.
The ligaments in a joint hold the bones of that joint together and allow them to flex and move. When a twisted ankle occurs, those ligaments stretch beyond their means, resulting in tears in the fibers that make up the ligaments. If the tearing is minor, the recovery time is generally short, though re-injury is possible and quite likely if the person with the twisted ankle does not allow enough time for proper rest and recovery. More severe sprains that result in significant tearing can take much longer to heal and will require immobilization for an extended period of time. A cast may be necessary, but more often a compression bandage or brace can be used.
The RICE treatment is very effective at treating a sprained ankle. RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Resting allows the injury to heal on its own; icing the injury prevents or alleviates swelling, which can in turn relieve some pain; compression also helps to reduce swelling and pain, which can in turn help reduce a loss of mobility; and elevation can help prevent blood from building up in the injury, resulting in swelling. This can also help prevent fluid build-up that may result in a loss of mobility or in excess pain.
Once the twisted ankle injury has begun to heal, the person with the sprained ankle can begin doing mobility exercises to help restore movement to the joint. Exercises should be stopped if pain is felt, though soreness can be expected. Once some mobility has been restored to the ankle and no pain is felt from the injury, the person may begin doing strength training exercises to restore strength to the joint. This will not only help the person return to his or her normal walking movement, but it will also help prevent future injuries by strengthening the ligaments and making them less susceptible to excess stretching or tearing.