If It Is Just a Sprain, Why Does My Ankle Still Hurt?

Ankle sprains are common. After a few days to a few weeks swelling and bruising, is reasonable to expect the ankle to be back to normal. Unfortunately, some ankle sprains just don't seem to get better.

An ankle sprain is actually tearing of the ligaments which connect the bones of the ankle. Most people experience pain, swelling, bruising (which can be very impressive); many recall hearing a "pop." The ligaments will heal on their own. Ongoing pain results usually from 2 causes, which can overlap:

1. The healing response of the body causes scar tissue to form which catches in the ankle.

2. The ligaments heal too long, leaving the ankle unstable with repeated sprains.

Generally, just treating the symptoms with rest, ice, anti-inflammatories (ibuprofen, naproxen), and early motion will resolve most sprains. MRI scans aren't usually needed; once a ligament is torn it will always look abnormal and the scar doesn't usually show on the MRI. But if it doesn't feel right after 6 weeks, it may be time to see an orthopedic surgeon.

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Author: Alexandra Page, MD

Author
Alexandra Page, MD Alexandra Page, MD Orthopedic Surgeon

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