How to manage ankle sprains

These can happen when you “twist” your ankle either during sports or, for example, when stepping in a hole while walking the dog.

Please bear in mind that although the information and tips in this blog are helpful when dealing with a sprained ankle, for specific advice and guidance, please contact a physiotherapist for a professional assessment.

Understanding your ankle sprain 

Let’s first delve into the anatomy of an ankle sprain. When you sprain your ankle, you injure the ligaments that surround and connect the bones of the ankle joint. The sprain causes a tear or stretch in the ligaments.

An ankle sprain can occur when you twist or turn your ankle. This can happen when you rapidly change direction or land when playing sports. When you suffer an ankle injury you will experience pain and eventually swelling and bruising depending on severity.  Bearing weight on that side may also be difficult. 

Grading of ankle injuries

A grading system is used to determine the severity of an ankle injury:

Grade 1: Minimal ligament fibres damaged. You may experience mild swelling and bruising. 

Grade 2: Partial tearing of the ligament fibres, which can result in restricted movement, swelling and bruising.

Grade 3:A full rupture of the ligaments. Lots of swelling and bruising and restricted range of movement. Mobilising will be difficult. 

At home treatments 

When managing an ankle sprain, treat it following the RICE principle: 

R – Rest the affected area for the first 48 hours. You may need a walking aid to help you get around the house. 

I Ice is helpful at reducing inflammation and swelling. Be sure to limit icing the area to 10 minutes at a time. Use a damp cloth between the ice and affected area to avoid applying ice directly to your skin. 

C – Compression helps prevent additional swelling; you can wrap your ankle with elastic bandages but be careful not to wrap it too tightly. 

E Elevation reduces swelling. Raise your leg up higher than the level of your heart.

The road to recovery 

The focus needs to be on reducing swelling and increasing the range of movement.  As things improve you can start to work on strengthening the muscles of your ankle and eventually work on balance systems.  Usually, after around 6 weeks you will be ready for higher level rehabilitation exercises and a return to sports soon afterwards. Rehabilitation is very important to prevent re-injury.

Our professional physiotherapists use hands-on techniques to help you safely and effectively regain your range of movement. We’ll guide you through basic strength exercises, easy mobility exercises, and more as you gradually begin to be able to bear more weight, increase your walking distance, and get back to doing what you love. 

Get in touch

If you’ve sprained your ankle and could benefit from physiotherapy, please feel free to give us a call on 020 8898 1231. Our expert team will be happy to answer any of your questions or provide more information on how we can help you get back on your feet.