The ankle joint is supported and stabilized by a series of ligaments. An awkward twist, fall, or direct blow can cause the ligaments to stretch beyond their normal range of motion, and even tear from the bones they connect. The result is intense pain and swelling that often makes it impossible to bear weight on the affected leg. Doctors usually treat torn ankle ligaments with medications to relieve pain and physical therapy to promote healing. In the case of a severe tear, a patient may need to be fitted with a cast or undergo surgery to manually repair the joint.
It is important to visit an emergency room or a private physician following a severe ankle injury. A doctor can take x-rays and magnetic resonance imaging scans of the ankle joint to determine the extent of ligament damage. If ligaments are partially torn, the physician may simply recommend several days of rest, ice, and compression to relieve pain and swelling. More serious damage usually requires further inspection to determine how to best treat the ligaments.
A doctor may decide to prescribe medication to help relieve painful symptoms. In the case of severe, sharp pain, the doctor can directly inject the ankle joint with an anti-inflammatory medicine and a numbing agent. Following immediate care, physicians may fit patients with leg casts and crutches. Casts are often worn for several weeks or months to protect and stabilize the joint. Giving the leg time to heal without putting pressure on the joint is usually the most effective way to treat torn ankle ligaments.
After a cast is removed, the doctor will carefully inspect the leg and decide if anything else needs to be done to treat torn ankle ligaments. If the ligaments appear to be healing correctly, the doctor usually encourages the patient to attend physical therapy sessions. Licensed trainers can help a patient regain strength and flexibility in his or her ankle through a series of stretches and exercises. It is important to follow the recommendations of a trainer exactly in order to avoid further damage to the ankle.
If other methods prove ineffective in relieving problems, a doctor might suggest surgery to treat torn ankle ligaments. During a reconstruction procedure, a surgeon will make an incision into the ankle joint and stitch torn ligaments back together. Further procedures may be necessary if the surgeon notices damage to bones or tendons. Several months of rehabilitation therapy are often needed after a surgical procedure to rebuild strength and ensure that the ankle heals correctly.