Ankle Sprain : Causes & Treatment

Medically Reviewed By : Dr K. Hari Chandana

( Fellowship in Trauma, Fellowship in Pain Management )


An ankle sprain is the most common injury to the foot. It affects everyone, regardless of age or gender. Many conditions can cause it, such as unsupportive footwear, physical activities, muscle weakness, etc. However, you can reduce the chances of injury by understanding the real causes, prevention strategies, and effective recovery methods.

In this article, we will delve deeper to make it easy for you.

What is an ankle sprain?

This condition occurs when the ligaments (that support the ankle joint) get stretched due to sudden twisting, excessive force, or rolling of the ankle. Moreover, a sprain could be mild to severe, depending on the extent of torn ligaments.

Let’s discuss the types of sprains to make it more understandable.

Grades of Ankle Sprains

Ankle sprains are classified into three grades based on severity:

Grade I 

It is a mild type of sprain. In this grade, the ligament that supports the ankle joint gets stretched instead of torn apart. However, you may feel discomfort while lifting weights. Moreover, the ankle may be slightly swollen and tender.

Grade II

It is a moderate type of sprain. It involves partial tearing of the ligaments. You may experience more significant pain, swelling, difficulty in walking, etc.

Grade III

It is a severe type of pain. In this grade, ligaments get completely torn. Additionally, it leads to extensive swelling, intense pain, and substantial instability in the ankle. 

If you are suffering from grade III arthritis, walking or weight bearing on the ankle is often impossible without support.

Ankle sprain

What are the Common causes of ankle sprain?

Primarily, excessive stretching or tearing of the ligaments (that support the ankle joint) is the common cause of ankle sprains. Other common causes include

1.Sudden Twisting or Rolling of the Ankle

When you suddenly twist or roll your ankle, it can cause the ligaments (that support the ankle joint) to stretch or tear. 

These ligaments are responsible for holding the bones of the ankle joint in place and providing stability. When these ligaments get stretched or torn, it can cause pain, swelling, and difficulty walking.

Thus, it consequently causes ankle sprains. The severity of the sprain depends on the extent of ligament damage. 

2. Uneven Surfaces

When you step on an uneven surface, such as a rock or hole in the ground, your foot can suddenly twist or turn, causing the ligaments that support the ankle joint to stretch or tear. It can cause swelling, pain, and difficulty walking. 

3. Accidents and Falls

Traumatic events can cause an ankle sprain. For example, when you accidentally collide with another person or an object, It forces the ankle into an unnatural position, leading to ligament damage. 

4. Physical Activities and Sports

Physical activities and sports can cause ankle sprains. Because when you do any physical activity, it puts pressure on the ankle joint. When this pressure force reaches beyond its normal range of motion, it results in ankle sprains. 

Activities that involve a lot of jumping, running, or twisting, such as basketball, soccer, or tennis, can put a lot of stress on the ankle joint, making it more susceptible to sprains. 

However, wearing proper footwear with good ankle support and taking breaks when fatigued can help prevent ankle sprains during physical activities and sports.

5. Inadequate Footwear

Inadequate footwear can cause ankle sprains because it does not provide enough support for the ankle joint. Also, if your shoes don’t fit properly or don’t have good ankle support, your ankle is more likely to twist or turn, causing the ligaments that support the ankle joint to stretch or tear. It can lead to pain, swelling, and difficulty walking

6. Weak Ankle Muscles

Weak ankle muscles do not provide enough support for the ankle joint. Thus, if your ankle muscles are weak, they may not be able to stabilize the ankle joint properly. So it can twist or turn in an awkward way easily. It can damage the ligaments that support the ankle joint, resulting in an ankle sprain.

7. Previous Ankle Injuries

Previous ankle injuries weaken the ligaments that support the ankle joint. So, if you’ve had an ankle sprain in the past, your ligaments may not be as strong or stable as they once were, making it more likely that you’ll sprain your ankle again in the future. 

You can prevent ankle sprains from previous injuries through appropriate rehabilitation treatment. Additionally, you can wear proper footwear for good ankle support.

Additionally, doing exercises that strengthen the muscles around the ankle joint can help provide extra support and stability to the ankle joint.

8. Lack of Warm-up

If you start a physical activity without warming up first, your muscles and ligaments may not be as flexible or pliable as needed. Thus, they can stretch or tear easily. Which consequently causes ankle sprains. 

So it’s important to do a proper warm-up before starting any physical activity. You can do light aerobic exercises, stretching, mobility exercises, etc. 

9. Fatigue and Overexertion

Fatigue and overexertion cause the muscles and ligaments to tire and decrease stability. Thus, if you continue to engage in physical activity when you’re fatigued or have overexerted yourself, your ligaments may not be able to stabilize the ankle joint as they need to, which makes them twist or turn easily. It can cause ligament damage, which results in sprains.

You can prevent ankle sprains from fatigue and overexertion by taking breaks when you feel tired and avoiding pushing yourself too hard during physical activity. Additionally, wearing proper footwear with good ankle support can help provide extra stability to the ankle joint.

10. Individual Factors

Individual factors can cause ankle sprains by making some people more susceptible to sprains than others. Factors such as age, weight, and flexibility can all affect how easily someone may sprain their ankle.

For example, older adults may be more susceptible to ankle sprains due to changes in their muscles, bones, and joints that occur with age. 

Additionally, people who are overweight may put more stress on their ankle joints, making them more susceptible to injury. 

Finally, less flexible people can’t stabilize their ankle joints. So their ankles can twist or turn in an awkward way very easily.

So, it’s important to be aware of your personal risk factors and to take steps to minimize them. It can include maintaining a healthy weight, doing exercises that improve flexibility and balance, and wearing proper footwear with good ankle support.

What is the Ankle Sprain Treatment?

Various treatments are available for this condition.  

Mild ankle sprains can be managed at home with rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE). It involves,


An ankle sprain is a typical injury among people. However, ignoring a sprained ankle can lead to chronic instability and other long-term complications.

So if you have any of the symptoms, like swelling in the ankle, it is advisable to visit the doctor to determine the real cause so that appropriate treatment can begin.