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Ankle Sprain (cont.)

Symptoms

People usually feel immediate pain at the site of an ankle sprain. Often the ankle starts to swell immediately and may develop bruisingClick here to see an illustration.. The affected area is usually tender to touch and may feel "wobbly" or unstable.

In a mild sprain, swelling usually goes down within a few days.

The severity of your symptoms usually depends on how much tearing has occurred. In more severe sprains, you are often not able to walk or even put weight on your foot, and your ankle may feel unstable. You usually have extreme pain at first, but some people start to feel better fairly soon. You may also hear and/or feel a tearing sensation and a pop or a snap.

If a sprain does not heal correctly, your ankle joint may be more likely to be injured again or the pain may not go away. This often occurs with even a slight trauma, such as stepping off a curb or walking on uneven pavement. Some people complain of persistent pain and swelling.

When to Call a Doctor

See your doctor immediately if you notice any of the following:

  • Your foot or leg bends at an abnormal angle.
  • You feel severe pain.
  • Your foot is cool or pale or changes color.
  • You feel numbness or tingling in your foot or toes that lasts after the initial injury.
  • You can't move your ankle.

You should see your doctor after an ankle sprain if you notice any of the following:

  • You heard a popping sound at the time you sprained your ankle.
  • You have moderate pain or severe swelling or bruising around your ankle.
  • You can't walk or put weight on your affected foot, or your ankle feels unstable.
  • You have redness, swelling, or pain in your leg or groin. These can be signs of a blood clot.
  • You have no improvement in your ankle after 1 week.
  • Your swelling and bruising last more than 2 weeks.

Also be sure to contact your doctor if you have a cast or splint around your ankle that feels too tight. If the cast hurts, pinches, or feels like it is digging into your skin, it may be too tight. If your foot feels numb or your skin feels cool, call your doctor immediately.

If your pain is mild and you are able to put some weight on your foot, you may follow the recommendations in the Treatment Overview and Home Treatment sections of this topic. Initial treatment and rehabilitation exercises ensure that your ankle heals properly. If treatment recommendations are not followed, your ankle may stay weak and unstable.

Who to see

For evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment of an ankle sprain, you may see:

For further treatment, you may be referred to:

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