A mild sprain occurs when there is minimal force with only slight stretching or tearing of the ligaments. Pain and swelling are minimal; walking is generally possible. Treatment: Often, ankle elevation and ice pack to reduce pain swelling are all that is necessary.
A moderate sprain occurs when ligaments are partially torn. Pain, swelling, and bruising are greater; walking may be difficult. Treatment: Immobilization of the ankle in a splint, elastic bandage, or may cast may be a necessary to ensure proper healing or torn ligaments. Ice may help reduce swelling; pain relievers may be prescribed by your doctor. As with all sprains, elevation of the foot above the heart level is the best way to reduce pain and swelling.
In a severe sprain ligaments can be completely torn; pain and swelling are immediate and obvious. Bruising can appear on both sides of the ankle and bones may be chipped or broken. Treatment: The severely sprained ankle needs to be immobilized by a splint or cast for up to six weeks to ensure proper healing of the injured ligaments or bones. In certain instances surgery may be indicated. You doctor can tell you how long your ankle will be immobilized, when it will be possible to walk again, and whether crutches will be needed.