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What is a Rolled Ankle?

By D. Jeffress
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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One of the most common injuries suffered by active people is a rolled ankle. When ligaments and joint tissue are stretched beyond their normal range of motion, they become inflamed, swollen, painful, and often debilitating. A rolled ankle can occur when a person trips and falls, makes a sudden stop or twist, or steps awkwardly on a slope. Most instances of ankle strains can be treated at home with rest, ice, and over-the-counter medication. If symptoms are unbearable or persist after several days of home treatment, however, medical attention may be necessary. Doctors can prescribe medications, fit patients with ankle braces, or suggest surgery and physical therapy to correct serious tissue damage.

Many contact sports and activities can lead to a rolled ankle. An athlete who constantly runs, jumps, pivots, and stops is prone to landing awkwardly on the foot, causing the ankle to roll over and become sprained. Simply tripping while walking can also lead to an ankle sprain, as can missing a step on a set of stairs. Individuals who have weak ankles, especially older or obese people, are at an increased risk of rolling their ankles during regular activity.

When a person rolls his or her ankle, the tendons immediately swell and become inflamed. Intense local pain is common, sometimes to the point where it is difficult or impossible to put weight on the foot. The swelling and tenderness can make the ankle lose flexibility and feel stiff after an accident. Depending on the severity of a rolled ankle, a person may not be able to walk around unassisted for several days.

It can take weeks or even months to fully recover from a rolled ankle. For mild injuries, where swelling is slight and pain is bearable, home remedies can significantly shorten healing time. A person should try to avoid putting weight on the ankle, ice the joint regularly, and keep the leg elevated while at rest. It is important to give the ligaments time to heal before engaging in activity or exercise. Once swelling has subsided, a person can try to move the ankle in small circles to loosen the joint and walk short distances to rebuild strength. Over-the-counter ankle wraps or braces can stabilize the joint and help limit the ankle's motion to prevent further injury.

A person who suffers a severe ankle injury should visit the emergency room or schedule an appointment with a physician right away. A doctor can inspect the ankle, take x-rays, and perform a number of diagnostic tests to determine the location and severity of problems. For a severely rolled ankle, a physician may decide to prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs, inject the joint with a cortisone solution, and fit the ankle with a brace or cast. If a tendon is torn or a bone is fractured, surgery may be necessary to promote a full recovery.

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Discussion Comments

By StingAuera — On Mar 27, 2014
Seems to me that basketball is often the culprit behind sprained ankles. Help prevent the sprain by wearing high-tops.
By Jewellian — On Mar 27, 2014

Over-the-counter medications work well, but don't be fooled. Once your ankle begins to feel better, don't trust that it is completely healed. The over-the-counter medications, ease the pain, and lessen swelling, while also masking the symptoms associated with a lateral ankle sprain or twisted ankle. Don't put weight on it, until you are sure it is better, and by no means should you play sports. It could take up to 13 weeks or more for an ankle injury to heal. Don't re-injure it by getting back in the game to quickly.

By voordal — On Mar 26, 2014

Icing the ankle will bring down swelling and begin the healing process, but the best remedy for a swollen ankle, is anti-inflammatory medicines, also known as NSAID (Nonsteroidal Antiinflammatory Drugs) Advil and Ibuprofen are antiinflammatory, as is aspirin. However, children and teenagers should not take aspirin, due to the risk of Reye's Syndrome. There is no risk of contracting Reye's Syndrome with the administration of Ibuprofen and Advil.

By Ahmerus — On Mar 25, 2014

A rolled ankle, or a severe ankle sprain is incredibly painful. An ankle sprain injury is often so painful, that the injured party thinks he has a fracture. It is normal that the patient is unable to bear weight on the affected ankle, but it should become less painful, not healed, but less painful within a few days time. Wrapping the ankle is ideal, and as the article indicates, icing the area, while keeping the ankle elevated will help. However, after the initial injury, say a day or so later, icing does very little to bring down swelling.

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