Treatment of a sprained ankle

An ankle sprain occurs when a ligament is overstretched, twisted, or torn. The ligament is a firm, flexible, fibrous tissue that connects one bone to another to form a joint.


  1. Ankle sprain: degrees
  2. Symptoms of a sprained ankle
  3. Causes of a sprained ankle
  4. Diagnosis of a sprained ankle
  5. Treatment of a sprained ankle
  6. Prevention of an ankle sprain
  7. Questions and answers

Ankle sprain: degrees

Ankle sprains are one of the most common musculoskeletal injuries.

Ankle sprains are classified by grade:

  • Mild (grade 1) – partial or elongated tear of a ligament without loss of weight-bearing ability on the injured foot.
  • Moderate (grade 2) – incomplete ligament tear with moderate loss of weight-bearing ability on the injured foot.
  • Severe (Grade 3) – Complete tear of a ligament that may result in complete loss of weight-bearing ability on the injured foot.

Symptoms of a sprained ankle

Symptoms associated with a sprained ankle are:

  • pain
  • swelling
  • bruises
  • movement restriction

A sprained ankle can be very painful, and the pain gets worse if you move your foot. Your ankle begins to swell right away and is tender to the touch. Bruising will appear around the injury, but it can take hours or even days to appear. If the sprain is severe, you may not be able to bear any weight on your foot.

Sometimes you get to hear a dry noise or crack when the injury occurs. Although this can be alarming, it is not necessarily a sign of the severity of your injury.

Causes of a sprained ankle

Ankle sprain is commonly caused by the foot twisting inward, which causes the ligaments on the outside of the ankle to stretch beyond their normal range. This is known as an inversion sprain.

Why does an ankle sprain occur? This injury can be caused by:

  • walk on uneven surfaces
  • losing balance while wearing high heels
  • an impact on the ankle during sports practice
  • to jump awkwardly

You are more likely to sprain your ankle if you have had one before. This is because the ligaments may not have healed properly the first time, making them weaker. It may also be that the nerves in the ankle have been damaged earlier, and the muscles are still weak from not being fully rehabilitated.

Diagnosis of a sprained ankle

Your doctor or physical therapist will ask about your symptoms and examine you. He will also ask about your medical history and ask you to describe exactly how you hurt your ankle.

The doctor or physical therapist will want to rule out a bone fracture and assess the severity of your injury. You may be asked to walk a few steps to see if you can put weight on your foot. This will help your doctor decide on the best treatment for you.

You may need an X-ray if your doctor thinks your injury is severe and more specific treatment is needed.

Please note that the availability and use of these specific tests may vary from country to country.

Treatment of a sprained ankle

It is important that you start treating your ankle injury as soon as possible. This will speed your return to activity and reduce the chance of it happening again.

self help

In the first 48 to 72 hours after injury, it is important to follow the PDECE procedure. Many minor strains and sprains respond well to this procedure.

  • Protect your injury from further damage.
  • Rest your foot for the first two or three days, and then move it again so you don’t lose too much muscle strength.
  • Cool the injured area with an ice pack or ice wrapped in a towel to reduce swelling and bruising. Do not apply ice directly to the skin, because it could damage it.
  • Compress the area with a bandage to support the injured area and help reduce swelling. The bandage should fit snugly without being too tight, and should be removed before going to sleep.
  • Elevate the injured area above the level of the heart to control swelling. Support the area on something and try to keep it elevated as much as possible until the swelling goes down.

If the injury does not improve, it is important to seek the advice of your doctor or physical therapist.

In the first 72 hours there are certain things you should not do. These can be remembered with the acronym CACM.

  • Heat. Do not use hot compresses, hot water bottles or heat massages on the affected area, or hot baths or saunas. The heat stimulates blood flow to the area, an opposite effect of using ice.
  • Alcohol. Do not drink alcohol, as it can increase bleeding and swelling in the area, slowing down the healing process.
  • Running or any other form of strenuous exercise. Such activities can cause more damage.
  • Massages. These can increase bleeding and swelling.

As soon as you feel the pain is tolerable, begin gentle stretching exercises to keep your ankle moving and help decrease pain and swelling.

  • Doing five repetitions of the following exercises, three to five times a day, can help you regain movement in your ankle in all directions.
  • Achilles tendon stretch. Sit on the floor with your injured leg stretched out in front of you. Wrap a towel around the ball of your foot and gently pull your toes toward you, keeping your leg straight. Hold the position for 20 to 30 seconds.
  • Calligraphy exercise. He tries to draw the lowercase and uppercase letters of the alphabet on the floor with his thumb.
  • Your doctor or physical therapist will probably prescribe certain exercises once you can stand without pain.

These exercises are intended to strengthen the muscles around the ankle to make a repeat injury less likely.

Medications for ankle sprain

You can take paracetamol (acetaminophen) right away to help relieve pain and swelling. The doctor may prescribe codeine if the pain is severe.

Always read the instructions that come with the medicine and if you have any questions; consult your doctor or pharmacist.

Physical therapy (physiotherapy)

Physical therapy can help restore range of motion, strength, and balance. This can be done with a number of techniques, such as:

  • massages
  • ultrasound
  • mobilization of the joint and nerves
  • exercises to increase your range of motion, strength, and balance
  • return to the practice of a specific sport
  • tape or a brace placed around your ankle


Surgery for sprained ankles is rare, because there is not enough evidence to suggest that it is more effective than physical therapy and exercise. However, if your ankle still hurts and gives way after trying all physical therapy options, your doctor may refer you to an orthopedic surgeon (a doctor who specializes in bone surgery) or a sports injury specialist.

The availability and use of different treatments may vary from country to country. Talk to your doctor about your treatment options.

after treatment

The amount of time it takes you to recover from a sprained ankle depends on the severity of your injury.

If you do not have any complications, you will probably be able to walk in a week or two and have full motion in your ankle within six to eight weeks.

Prevention of an ankle sprain

It’s impossible to totally eliminate the risk of spraining your ankle, but there are several ways to help prevent ankle sprains. The most important thing to do is maintain the strength, flexibility, and balance of the muscles around your ankle. Some other examples are listed below.

  • Wear shoes that fit well and are appropriate for the activity you are doing.
  • Be careful when wearing high-heeled shoes and walking on uneven surfaces.
  • The use of a semi-rigid ankle brace has proven to be an effective way to prevent a new ankle sprain. A semi-rigid ankle brace has a slightly rigid shell that helps keep pressure off your ankle while allowing you to move freely. Your physical therapist can tell you if they think it’s a good idea for you to use it.

Questions and answers

How long does it take to fully recover from a sprained ankle?


How long it takes you to recover will depend on how severe your injury was. It can take anywhere from a few weeks to a full year to recover from a sprained ankle.


Mild sprains start to get better after a few days. Between week six and week eight you should be able to put your full body weight on your ankle without pain when you walk. If you still have pain after a week, it is important to see your GP or physical therapist.

If your sprain is minor, you can start doing some sports again once the swelling has subsided. This can be after a week for swimming but longer for activities that put more stress on your ankle.

In the case of more serious sprains, your recovery period can be up to 12 months. This will also vary depending on whether you have required a surgical operation or not.

Unless you have a severe sprain and need to wear a cast or have surgery, the most effective way to treat ankle sprains is to get moving early. This means starting to move your ankle and gently exercise it within 48 to 72 hours after your injury. Your GP or physical therapist can advise you on exercises that will help decrease recovery time and prevent the injury from recurring.


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