Ankle sprains occur when ligaments in the ankle are stretched beyond their limit, causing a tear. This type of injury is very common and usually happens as a result of falls, sports injuries, exercising on an uneven surface, and other situations and physical activities that may cause the foot to twist or turn in an awkward way. Most ankle sprains are minor injuries, requiring rest and ice packs for recovery, but some sprains can be severe and cause long-term joint pain and damage if not treated immediately by a medical professional.


Degrees of Ankle Sprains

There are two types of sprains that determine which ligaments are stretched and torn. The more common inversion sprain occurs when the foot falls inward and the outer ligaments are affected. In this case, the foot goes outward, causing tears and pain on the inside of the ankle.

The degree of an ankle sprain is determined by the severity of the injury. The three degrees are as described:

First Degree: The ligaments are stretched but are not torn. This will lead to mild pain and swelling. The joints will experience some stiffness and while a person will be able to walk, there will be some limping and difficulties in jogging, jumping or any other activity that places pressures on the foot.

Second Degree: This common injury includes a partial tear in the ligament. The ankle will experience some swelling and bruising. Moderate pain will be accompanied by some difficulty in walking and moving the ankle.

Third Degree: This is the most severe degree of sprains and requires immediate medical attention to prevent long-term foot damage. A third-degree ankle sprain is identified by severe swelling, extreme inability of motion in the foot, and significant pain and difficulties while walking.


To Care for a Sprain: Remember RICE

A person can use the mnemonic RICE to remember the steps to effectively treat an ankle injury:

R: Rest. A person must avoid pressure on the foot and ankle for the first 24 to 48 hours after the injury.

I: Ice. An ice pack should be applied in 20-minute intervals for the first two days.

C: Compression. This is to reduce swelling. An elastic bandage should fit snugly around the injury.

E: Elevation. The ankle should be elevated above chest level to reduce swelling and subsequently alleviate pain.


A person should not ignore a sprain and should generally consult a doctor after an injury. To prevent long-term disability, they should seek immediate medical attention if they are unable to move the foot, they experience severe pain or numbness in the foot, or symptoms do not improve after two weeks.