What are the long-term effects of a sprained ankle?

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A sprained ankle is considered one of the common injuries that involve the lower leg. A sprained ankle occurs once one or several ligaments that surround the three ankle joints are injured. The damage on the ligaments can be minor which involves stretching of the ligament, moderate which involves a partial tear or severe where the ligament is completely torn.

Sprained ankles often heal completely and the individual can resume his/her normal activity but if incorrectly diagnosed, incorrect treatment or early return to activity, it can lead to lasting effects. If you want to properly manage this condition, click here.

Chronic pain

Sprained ankle
The most common lasting effect of a sprained ankle is chronic pain.

The most common lasting effect of a sprained ankle is chronic pain. Even in severe cases of sprains, it should be painless and fully heal within 10 weeks. If the pain and inflammation lasts longer than this, there is likelihood of a hairline fracture, torn cartilage or ruptured tendon.

The chronic pain without inflammation is typically a result of either a partially unsettled dislocation or nerve damage. The pain can affect the gait of the individual which negatively affects the joints in the low back, knees and hips. In addition, the chronic pain can also lead to dependence or even addiction on pain medications which increase the risk for liver disease and stomach ulceration.

Chronic swelling

Chronic swelling is another common lasting effect of a sprained ankle and due to an unrepaired torn ligament, infection, nonunion fracture or damaged blood vessels. It is important to note that chronic swelling is oftentimes caused by synovitis which involves the inflammation of the interior lining of the ankle joint. The swelling of the ankle joint over time can change the color and texture of the skin around the ankle.


The instability of the ankle occurs once the affected ligament could not regain its elasticity, causing the ankle joints to become hypermobile and move in an unusual manner. The instability produces the feeling that the ankle is about to give away and can be accompanied by pain and low-grade swelling. The instability involves long-term weakening of the joints and greatly increases the frequency of future ankle sprains.

Diminished movement

Diminished movement is also a lasting effect of a sprained ankle and can be due to severe swelling or stiffness and inflammation. Dorsiflexion and eversion are movements typically affected particularly if the ankle was under a walking cast for a long time or the recommended rehabilitation program was ignored.

Nerve damage

Damage to the nerves occurs once there is excessive twisting during a sprain or long-term swelling which results to the compression of the nerves that surround the ankle. The lasting effects include electric-sensation pain, burning pain, numbness, tingling, muscle twitching, muscle weakness and diminished nerve reflexes.

The unusual self-perception of body orientation can also occur which affects the balance and stability of the ankle and foot. In case nerve damage and muscle weakness are severe, drop foot can develop which is the inability to flex the ankle properly and can affect the ability to walk normally.


The diminished range of motion and dislocation of the joint for some time can lead to osteoarthritis. This condition can be determined by the presence of reduced joint space and bone spurs in the X-ray result. The indicative symptoms of osteoarthritis include aching pain in the morning and cracking or grinding during movement.

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