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Types of Ankle Sprains:
A "Step-by-Step" Guide to Diagnosis and Treatment

Ankle sprains are the most common type of sprain sustained by adults. While they seem like innocuous injuries, they can have serious long-term effects if left untreated. Because of this, it is valuable to know the signs and symptoms. If you sustain an ankle sprain, your ligaments and tendons will become overstressed, resulting in inflammation and eventual damage to other parts of your body. Depending on the severity of the sprain, some types of ankle sprains may require little intervention, and others will require a more comprehensive treatment plan. Let’s look at the different types of ankle sprains so you know the best way to identify what kind of injury you’re dealing with and how to treat it accordingly.

What is an ankle sprain?

We’ve all experienced a sprain of some kind in the past. Ligaments stabilize our foot and ankle; when forced beyond their strength, they tear, which is a sprain. An ankle sprain is one of the most common ligament injuries when you land on your foot/ankle wrong, usually because of a twist or turn. Sprains are extremely common in athletic sports, running, hiking, or other athletic movements. Symptoms of an ankle sprain include pain, swelling, and stiffness in your ankle, which gradually resolves after a few weeks of rest.

There are a few subtypes of ankle sprains. Sprains can also divide into three categories based on their mechanism of injury. The most common type is an inversion sprain, which occurs when you twist or turn your foot inwards, almost exclusively resulting in pain on the outside of the foot and ankle. The next type is an eversion sprain which occurs when you twist or turn your foot outwards, resulting in pain involving the inside of your foot and ankle. The last type is a high-ankle or syndesmotic sprain. High-ankle sprains occur when the foot is forced towards the ankle and twisted outward, resulting in pain on both the inside and outside portion of the foot/ankle and the lower leg just above the ankle.

Ankle sprain severity

When assessing a sprained ankle, grades are assigned based on the extent of the damage. A mild sprain results in minor tissue damage and quick recovery time and is a first-degree sprain. Mild sprains are by far the most common. A first-degree sprain can be treated at home by

elevating the foot, icing it, and staying off of it, and it will heal in a few days. A second-degree sprain is more severe and may require additional treatment to heal. In addition to swelling and bruising, a second-degree sprain often requires further medical attention. There is partial or micro-tearing associated with second-degree sprains. 

If you have a second-degree sprain or think you may, contact us today and book an exam appointment. We may prescribe a boot or a brace to help you recover more quickly. There is a complete injury to the ligament in a third-degree sprain, typically resulting in a more significant amount of swelling and bruising and a lack of ability to walk. Crutches and a boot will most likely be required in addition to medical treatment. The time needed to recover from a third-degree sprain can take months.


Ankle sprains are common, painful injuries that occur when your ankle twists or turns too much, causing your ankle ligaments to become overstretched. When this happens, it triggers a painful inflammatory response and damage to the ligaments and tendons. If an ankle sprain is left untreated, it can become worse and result in chronic pain and chronic ankle instability. As discussed, ankle sprains are typically classified by the location and mechanism of injury. The severity of an ankle sprain depends on the subtype of the sprain. A moderate ankle sprain is usually harmless, but a severe ankle sprain can have serious long-term effects. As always, we’re here to help! 

Reach out today if you have any questions, or book a Virtual Visit for the convenience of staying in your own home!

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