The ankle is a vulnerable structure. It connects the ends of your two lower leg bones to your foot. Sitting at this intersection, it is subject to plenty of wear and tear. Sprains and breaks are the most common types of ankle problem.
A sprain is a stretched or torn ligament, tendon, or muscle. The ankle is the most commonly sprained joint in the body. A sprained ankle usually occurs when you roll over onto the outside of your foot, placing the full weight of your body on the ligaments supporting the ankle.
Symptoms vary in intensity depending on the severity of the injury. They include pain, tenderness, redness, bruising, swelling, or loss of mobility of the ankle. If you think you have sprained your ankle, apply RICE therapy:
Do not put weight on the ankle. Take aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen for pain and to help reduce swelling. If you have any doubt about whether your ankle has been broken, see your doctor so he or she can rule out a fracture.
Broken ankles happen to young and old alike. Symptoms include sudden, severe ankle pain which is made worse with pressure, swelling, bruising, and sometimes an obvious and abnormal change around the injured area. A minor fracture may be mistaken for a sprain. If you think you have sprained an ankle and the pain has not gone away within 3 days, the ankle may be fractured and you should see your doctor.
He or she will realign the ends of the bone and immobilize your foot in a cast or removable boot. Take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin to relieve pain. Once healing has occurred, use a support bandage during your rehabilitation exercises.
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.