Sprained ankles are relatively common with statistics indicating that they occur by the thousands in the US every single day. In most of these cases, the diagnosis and treatment are rather straightforward; rest, ice-pack, elevation, compression, and medication to prevent inflammation. In such situations, it should take no more than a few weeks before you're back on your feet.
However, there are cases where the pain from the ankle sprain, or some other symptom, lasts for significantly longer. There are several reasons why this might happen and the symptoms offer an idea why.
Swelling isn't uncommon following an ankle sprain. The swelling can last for six weeks or even longer. However, swelling that goes beyond three months is a sign of possible trouble. This may mean that something inside the joint causing irritation. A few reasons why this may occur include:
Damage to the surface of the joint that isn't spotted
A bone chip floating around in the fluid
A lesion, such as a small cavity in the ankle bone
A bruised bone
Any of these problems can be picked up on careful inspection and are quite treatable. In some cases, the symptoms fade on their own.
A more serious reason for complications to healing is the interference of diabetes. Diabetic patients should be under the care of a podiatrist when they experience a prolonged sprain because diabetic wounds are much harder to heal.
Just like swelling, pain is a common issue after spraining an ankle. However, when the pain doesn't go away for a long time, this can be an issue. Several reasons why this might happen include:
Sinus tarsi syndrome: The ankle bone has a hollow space in the side called the sinus tarsi, and if this space has an inflammation, a ligament that's partly torn or scar tissue, there will be discomfort.
Tarsal coalition: There may be a tarsal coalition that may not have been picked up when treating the original sprain.
Instability in the Ankle
This is when the ankle gives way. This is a common issue for people who've suffered a sprain. A few causes include:
Peroneal weakness: This is a weakness in the tendons that run on the outside of the ankle. These tendons can be weak after a sprain.
Damaged ankle ligaments: A series of serious sprains (grade II or III) can damage the ligaments in the ankle. This can cause the ligaments to become loose permanently. Surgery might be needed in this case.
There are various reasons why a sprained ankle may not heal as nicely as you'd want it. You should talk to a foot doctor if you experience lingering symptoms long after the sprain.