Our Top-Rated TX Podiatrist Explains Sprained Ankle Treatment and Recovery

Sprained ankles are the result of damage to soft connective tissues called ligaments that help hold the ankle bones together. These injuries generally occur because ligaments have been extended beyond their intended range. Ligaments are like rubber bands, which can stretch and return to their normal position repeatedly but can also be stretched too far and lose their elasticity or tear.  Symptoms of a painful ankle sprain

Even minor ankle sprains should be seen and treated by a foot and ankle doctor. The skilled podiatrists at Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists treat many patients for ankle sprains each year. Here, they explain treatment for sprains and the consequences of not seeking podiatric help for this condition.

Symptoms of Sprained Ankles

Generally, ankle sprains occur when you twist, turn, or roll your ankle outside its normal range of motion. This can happen when you’re playing sports that require jumping, running, or sudden changes in direction like basketball or tennis. An ankle sprain can also happen when you’re running or walking on an uneven surface, such as a hiking trail or a path covered in gravel.  

Sometimes, the symptoms of an ankle sprain are similar to a broken ankle bone, so it’s important to see a podiatrist right away to make sure you’re treating the right condition. Common symptoms of an ankle sprain include the following:  

  • Popping sound or sensation at the time of the injury
  • Immediate pain, especially when attempting to bear weight
  • Bruising/discoloration due to the tearing of small blood vessels
  • Swelling, which usually occurs within hours of the injury due to fluid that gathers around the ankle joint
  • Difficulty walking
  • Instability
  • Tenderness to the touch, most often on the outside of the ankle
  • Ankle stiffness
  • Decreased range of motion 
  • Inability to bear any weight on your foot
  • Numbness

Ankle Sprain Severity

Ankle sprains can range in severity from minor to severe. When you see a podiatrist at Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists, they will likely grade your ankle based on the level of damage. Here are the three grades most commonly given to sprained ankles: 

  • Grade I. This is the most common and least severe type of sprain. Usually, the ligaments are not torn, and the ankle is only sore and slightly swollen.
  • Grade II. With a grade II ankle sprain, there is usually a partial tear, and there is often swelling and pain that makes it difficult to bear weight on your ankle. You may see bruising also.
  • Grade III. A grade III ankle sprain means there is a full ligament tear. You may feel unstable when trying to walk, and you may not be able to bear weight on your ankle at all. With a grade III sprain, you may hear a popping sound when the injury occurs.

Treating Sprained Ankles

A sprained ankle may seem like a minor type of injury that doesn’t need immediate attention; however, it should be taken seriously. It’s important to see a podiatrist right away, even if you can limp your way through the pain. Patients who suffer an ankle sprain don’t always realize that this type of injury can permanently damage the ankle, cause repeat injuries, and even require surgery. So, it’s critical to see a foot doctor to ensure that you’re correctly diagnosed and your injury is indeed a sprain and not a break. Your medical professional will likely recommend you take the following steps:  


Stay off of your foot as much as possible to allow the sprain to heal. It may be helpful to use crutches when you need to walk.


Apply an ice pack in 20-30 minute intervals three times per day to help with pain and swelling. Never apply ice to bare skin, as it can damage the skin tissue. Instead, cover the ice pack with a towel.


Wrap the foot in an elastic compression bandage to decrease swelling and help with ankle stability. A brace or splint may also be helpful to keep the ankle in place.


When you’re seated or lying down, keep your foot at a level higher than your heart to help reduce swelling.


Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen can help with pain and swelling.

During the first 24 hours following a possible sprain, it is important to avoid anything that can increase swelling, including the following:

  • Hot showers
  • Heating pads
  • Saunas
  • Alcohol
  • Massage

Sprained Ankle Recovery

With proper treatment, minor to moderate sprained ankles heal within a few weeks. More severe sprains might take several months. The recovery process can be broken into three phases:

Phase 1. The ankle needs to rest and be protected for the first 24-48 hours after the injury to reduce swelling.

Phase 2. Restoring ankle flexibility, range of motion, and strength are the goals of this phase. Your doctor can recommend the timing for this phase and the correct exercises to help in your recovery.

Phase 3. During this phase, most patients return to their activities with a maintenance plan in place. Your doctor will tell you when to start this phase and how to best approach it so you don’t reinjure your ankle.

Consequences of Untreated Ankle Sprains

Many people think that if they can walk on their foot, the injury isn’t a break and not a big deal. This isn’t necessarily true. Even a minor sprain can have lasting consequences if it is not treated properly. If you have a sprain and it does not heal correctly, it can lead to:

  • Arthritis in your ankle
  • Chronic pain
  • On-going ankle instability, which could require surgery

Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists Can Help With Sprained Ankle Recovery and Prevention

Our doctors are skilled in treating many foot and ankle conditions, including ankle sprains. We can provide an accurate diagnosis through a physical exam and imaging tests and provide proper treatment. We can also help ensure your sprained ankle heals properly to reduce your risk of future injuries.

Preventative Care

Our doctors can help you to avoid future sprains by discussing your injury, how it happened, and what to do to help ensure it doesn’t happen again. We might talk to you about the following:

  • Choosing the right footwear that promotes proper balance and foot positioning
  • Knowing what stretches and exercises to do before your workouts to improve stability and mobility
  • Understanding how a brace or other ankle support can help prevent future ankle problems
  • Looking for signs and symptoms that may signal a re-injury and the need for a follow-up appointment

Custom Treatment Plans

Every patient has a different medical history, and it’s important for our podiatrists to understand yours. Even if you have the same grade level sprain as someone else, your level of daily activity may not allow you to successfully perform the same exercises and stretches to help with your recovery. Our podiatrists get to know you, your activity level, and your lifestyle to help ensure that our recommendations will promote the life you want to lead. Regaining strength and mobility in your ankle may require physical therapy. It is critical that patients complete the full rehabilitation program explained by their podiatrist to reduce their risk of reinjuring the same ankle in the future.

Craig Thomajan
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Austin Podiatrist