Most people have at some point in their lives twisted an ankle without serious consequences. However, when the pain persists and swelling occurs then it is a sprained ankle. This means that you have overstretched the ankle and in the process probably torn the ligaments inside your ankle. Repeated or severe sprains left unattended for a long period of time can develop into long-term joint pain and weakness.
In most cases ankle sprains occur when there is a rapid shifting movement while your foot is planted on the ground. These incidents occur frequently in soccer fields and tackles from other players. In such cases the ankle rolls outwards and the foot turns inwards causing the ligaments on the outside of the ankle to stretch and tear. Though less often, there are cases of the ankle rolling inward and the foot turning outwards which damages the ligaments on the inner part of the ankle. Ankle sprains range from mild to severe depending on the degree of the injury to the ligaments. Tender, swollen and stiff ankles are characteristics of a mild sprain whereby you can still feel stable and walk with little or no pain.
In severe sprains there are instances of bruising and tenderness to the ankle leaving it unstable. It sometimes feels shaky and walking is almost impossible due to the resulting pain. The more pain and swelling experienced, the higher the severity of an ankle sprain which takes a longer period of time to heal. Sprained ankles are divided into three grades depending on the severity and the extent of ligament damage.
In grade 1 sprain, there is some minor tearing with mild pain with less joint instability. In grade 2, there is moderate tearing of the ligament with some instability of the joints with the person experiencing moderate to severe pain and difficulty in walking. In grade 3, there is total rapture and gross instability of the joint accompanied with severe pain, swelling and extensive bruising in some cases.