An inversion sprain is a type of ankle sprain. This is a very common kind of foot and ankle injury. It often occurs during athletic activities, however, it may happen any time the foot twists forcefully. An inversion sprain occurs when the ligaments on the outside of the ankle are torn or over-extended. These three ligaments are called the posterior talofibular, the anterior talofibular, and the calcaneofibular ligament.
The opposite type of this injury is called an eversion sprain. This occurs when the deltoid ligament on the inside of the ankle is over-extended. One way to tell the difference between the two types of injuries is to examine how the patient was injured. If he became injured due to the ankle falling inward, it is an inversion sprain. Eversion injuries occur when the patient twists the foot in an outwards motion, away from the body.
Another way to differentiate between the two types is to evaluate the exact symptoms. An inversion sprain results in pain localized on the outside of the foot. Patients with eversion injuries will complain of pain on the inside of the joint. While pain is the most common symptom, patients may also hear a popping sound as the injury occurs. Swelling is often visible and bruising may be noticed a day or two afterward.
There are different grades of ankle sprains. The most mild is grade one, in which patients experience mild to moderate pain due to ligament stretching. People will likely be able to walk without assistance, however, more strenuous physical activities will be difficult or impossible.
Partial tearing of the ligament is classified as grade two. Patients will have more difficulty placing weight on the foot and may only walk a little without assistance. They will also notice severe bruising and swelling, and experience more intense pain. A grade three inversion sprain is diagnosed when the ligament is completely torn. This can be an intensely painful condition and walking will be very difficult.
To treat an inversion sprain, patients should follow the RICE method. RICE is an acronym that stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. For as long as it is painful for the patient to place weight on the foot, he should rest and limit physical activity. Gradually, he may begin to use the foot as the pain subsides.
In addition to rest, patients should apply ice to the ankle for no more than 20 minutes. He may reapply an ice pack about every three to four hours for the first two days. Compression wraps can help reduce swelling. A cloth bandage may be wrapped snugly over the entire foot and ankle. Compression wraps should not be tight enough to cut off circulation.
Patients should also keep the injured foot elevated as much as possible. While lying down, he can pile cushions under the foot to elevate it. Patients who experience persistent pain and swelling should see a doctor. Very severe injuries may require physical therapy or, in rare cases, surgery.