Some people twist an ankle while doing a high-impact activity like running, other folks do so when doing something as mundane as stepping off of a curb. Because sprained ankles are common, it's important that you know how to prevent them, how to treat them at home and when you should see a doctor.
A sprain, or ankle twist, is an injury to the ligaments supporting the joint. It occurs when you forcibly move the joint past its normal range of motion, overstretching, tearing and even rupturing the supporting ligaments.
If you sprain your ankle, remember the word RICE:
- Rest the ankle from any further exercise pending recovery
- Ice applied through a towel for 15- to 20-minute sessions, three to four times a day, to decrease the swelling
- Compression wraps minimize swelling and adds support
- Elevation helps to reduce swelling
To prevent a sprain, avoid shoes that put the ankle at risk, especially high heels, and, if you have weak ankles, wear shoes that support them, like high-top basketball sneakers or even boots. When exercising, use an ankle support, and make sure your exercise area is free of holes or uneven surfaces. Also, your doctor, a physical therapist or a certified trainer can provide exercises to increase ankle strength.
You'll need to see the doctor if you can't take even a few steps on the affected foot; if the joint seems to be misshapen, not just swollen (because that means you may have a fracture); and if after applying the RICE protocol for five days you still have significant swelling or pain.