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The Differences Between a Rolled Ankle vs. Sprained Ankle

A person hiking in boots on a dirt path rolling their right ankle as they walk.

Ankle injuries are a common occurrence, especially for people living in Chicago, where lengthy commutes and icy winters can lead to unexpected slips and falls. At Mitchell Foot & Ankle, we understand how painful and frustrating these injuries can be. They can also limit your mobility extensively for long periods, especially if you roll or sprain your ankle.

Understanding the difference between these two common ankle injuries can help you identify the signs early on and seek fast, effective treatment. To learn all about an ankle roll vs a sprain, continue reading.

Common Causes of Ankle Injuries

Ankle injuries often result from physical activities like running, jumping, or even walking on uneven surfaces. Sports activities also commonly lead to unexpected foot injuries. Dancing, softball, and tennis are a few examples.

Rolled Ankle vs. Sprained Ankle: Understanding the Difference

A rolled ankle occurs when the foot twists or rolls beyond its normal motion, leading to overstretched ligaments or tendons. Usually, an individual will feel sharp, sudden pain and lose their balance when they roll their ankle.

Ankle sprains, on the other hand, involve damage to the ligaments, tendons, and muscles that support the ankle. This is usually due to a sudden twist or impact that forces the ankle into an unnatural motion and overstretches connective tissues. A sprained ankle may also result from continuous strain on the ankle joint, often seen in activities like running or dancing. Unlike ankle rolls, ankle sprains vary in types and severity levels.

Injury Severity

The main difference between a rolled ankle and a sprained ankle lies in the severity and area of injury. A rolled ankle is generally considered less severe. Usually, the injury primarily affects the tendons and muscles around the ankle.

A sprained ankle involves ligament damage, which can range from mild to severe, depending on the extent of the ligament stretch or tear. This is often accompanied by bruising, swelling, and in some cases, foot discoloration after the ankle sprain.

Symptoms to Watch For

Understanding the differences between a rolled ankle and a sprained ankle, and their symptoms, can help you take the best steps towards recovery. With the right care and treatment, you can get back on your feet and back to living your life.

Rolled ankles typically manifest with pain, swelling, instability, and limited mobility. However, they don’t usually cause the intense pain associated with ligament damage.

Conversely, sprained ankles exhibit more severe symptoms. These can include significant swelling, bruising (ankle discoloration), ankle weakness, and inability to bear weight on the affected foot. Ankle popping after a sprain is also common.

Popping noises can indicate several things. It can mean that there is cartilage damage, tendon rubbing, or the area has filled up with fluid to protect the ankle bones and tissues. The “popping” sound can occur with the release of nitrogen bubbles in the fluid.

Popping may also occur after several ankle injuries, leading to a “loose” ankle joint that frequently readjusts itself. Dislocation or partial dislocation of the joint or the peroneal tendons can cause popping sounds, as well.

Treatment Options

Treatment for both conditions starts with the R.I.C.E. method: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. This approach helps reduce swelling and pain in the initial stages after injury.

For rolled ankles, gentle exercises to restore mobility and strength are often recommended as the swelling subsides. Wearing an ankle brace or using crutches to keep weight off the affected foot may also be beneficial.

In cases of sprained ankles, especially when there’s significant ankle pops or foot discoloration after the sprain, a more comprehensive treatment plan may be necessary. This could include physical therapy, bracing, or in severe cases, surgery to repair ligament damage.

In the end, regardless of whether you’ve rolled or sprained your ankle, rest and a safe rehabilitation plan are crucial.

Contact Mitchell Foot & Ankle for Ankle Recovery in Chicago, IL

Whether you’ve experienced a rolled ankle or a sprained ankle, our team is here to support your journey back to full health and mobility. We’re committed to helping our patients recover from ankle pain with personalized treatment plans.

Remember, early diagnosis and treatment can make a significant difference in your recovery. Don’t hesitate to seek medical attention if you suspect you have injured your ankle. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with our podiatrist in Hyde Park in Chicago.


Mitchell Foot & Ankle

1338 E 47th St.
Chicago, IL 60653

Fax: 773-433-8108

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