Sprained Ankle

Sprained Ankle

John Miller Physiotherapist

Article by John Miller

Sprained Ankle

Recovery from a Physiotherapist’s Perspective

A sprained ankle, a common but often misunderstood injury, affects both athletes and the general population. As a physiotherapist, my goal is to guide you through understanding the mechanics, symptoms, and effective treatment of this injury.

The Mechanics Behind the Injury

An ankle sprain occurs when the ligaments, the strong fibrous tissues connecting bones, are overstretched. Typically resulting from accidents, uneven terrain, or unsuitable footwear, sprains can range from mild to severe, with potential bone fractures.

Identifying the Symptoms

Symptoms vary from mild pain and swelling to severe discomfort, bruising, and even a popping sound at the injury moment. Difficulty in weight-bearing or walking normally often necessitates temporary support, such as crutches or a supportive boot.

The Importance of an Accurate Diagnosis

Proper diagnosis involves a detailed examination, assessing tenderness, swelling, and motion range. Sometimes, X-rays or MRI scans are necessary to rule out fractures and assess soft tissue damage.

Which Ligaments Are Involved?

Most ankle sprains involve the lateral ligaments on the ankle’s outside, including the anterior talofibular, calcaneofibular, and posterior talofibular ligaments. The medial deltoid ligament and, in high ankle sprains, the tibia and fibula ligaments can also be involved, leading to more complex injuries.

The Consequences of Misdiagnosis

Misdiagnosis can lead to chronic ankle instability and potentially require intensive treatment or surgery. Thus, accurate identification and treatment planning are crucial.

sprained ankle
Sprained Ankle

Physiotherapy Treatment for a Sprained Ankle

Immediate Measures for Recovery

  • Managing Pain and Inflammation: Rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) are vital first steps. Ankle strapping, moon boots, or braces may be prescribed.

Restoring Mobility

  • Gentle Exercises: As inflammation reduces, tailored exercises under physiotherapist supervision aim to restore full motion range.

Strengthening the Area

  • Targeted Exercises: These focus on muscles around the ankle and calf to improve stability and prevent future injuries, adjusted in intensity to match recovery stages.

Enhancing Proprioception and Balance

  • Proprioceptive Training: Critical for regaining ankle stability, these exercises improve the body’s awareness of its position in space.

Preparing for Athletic Demands

  • Sport-Specific Training: For athletes, treatment includes exercises tailored to the dynamic demands of their sport.

The Road Back to Full Activity

  • Gradual Training Resumption: Monitoring and gradually increasing exercise intensity ensures a successful transition back to activities.

Final Stages: Return to Competition

  • Full Recovery Preparation: The focus is on regaining pre-injury strength, function, and flexibility.

Recovery Timelines for Sprained Ankles

Recovery is highly individual, with ligaments typically healing within six weeks. However, full recovery depends on restoring strength, motion, and function. Mild grade I injuries will rehabilitate quicker than Grade III ruptures that may require longer immobilisation or ligament reconstruction surgery.

The Risks of Neglect

Untreated sprains can lead to chronic ankle issues. Adhering to a structured physiotherapy plan is essential to avoid long-term problems.


A sprained ankle demands prompt and effective physiotherapy treatment. Early consultation with a physiotherapist ensures a customised treatment plan, leading to quicker recovery and minimising future ankle issues. Remember, each ankle sprain is unique; professional guidance is key to a successful recovery.

New Research Insights

Recent studies emphasise the importance of tailored rehabilitation programs. According to a 2022 study, exercise based physiotherapy significantly enhances recovery outcomes, reducing the risk of re-injury and chronic instability. The integration of balance and proprioceptive training has been highlighted as particularly effective in promoting long-term ankle health.

What to do?

If you’re experiencing symptoms of a sprained ankle, don’t hesitate to seek professional advice. As a physiotherapist, I can provide you with a tailored treatment plan, ensuring the best possible outcome for your recovery. Remember, timely and appropriate treatment is the key to getting back on your feet confidently and safely.

Common Ankle Injuries

Welcome to an exploration of common ankle injuries. The ever-present sprained ankle is at the forefront, accompanied by various sources contributing to ankle pain. Fractures, stress fractures, and tendinopathies are part of this landscape, each with implications. Ankle impingement and foot posture issues emerge, and biomechanical issues take centre stage, affecting alignment and eventually fast-tracking ankle arthritis. Even the younger population experiences heel concerns, with Severs disease impacting many young athletes' seasons. This article serves as a concise guide to understanding the complexities of ankle problems.

Sprained Ankles

The most common ankle injury is a sprained ankle, but ankle pain can have numerous sources.

Ankle Fractures

An ankle fracture occurs when there is a break in one or more of the bones. The most common ankle fractures are avulsion fractures of your distal fibula, which can be a side effect of an ankle sprain. All suspected fractures require medical investigation and professional management by your health professional to avoid long-term foot and ankle issues. If your healthcare professional suspects an ankle fracture, you will be referred for at least an X-ray and potentially an Orthopaedic Surgeon.

Ankle Tendinopathies

While muscle strains are more common in your legs, there are essential muscles that converge into tendons that wrap around your ankle to stabilise your ankle and foot to protect them from sprains and allow you to walk and run. These muscles and their tendon vitally provide a normal foot arch and avoid flat feet. Your muscles or tendons can become injured or inflamed due to overuse or trauma. The inflammation is called tendonitis. They can also tear, completely rupture, or sublux out of place. Medically tendon injuries are known as tendinopathies, and at the ankle may include:

Ankle Arthritis

Your ankle pain and dysfunction can lead to degenerative conditions such as ankle osteoarthritis. While arthritis usually is a chronic deterioration of your ankle joint, it is crucial to slow ankle arthritis progression. Would you please seek the professional advice of your ankle and foot health practitioner, e.g. physiotherapist or podiatrist?

Biomechanical Conditions

Biomechanical disorders may result in foot deformation, painful weight-bearing and potentially nerve compression. In simple terms, this is where your foot and ankle do not have normal bone alignment and motion control. Here are a few possible conditions related to poor ankle biomechanics.

Muscle Injuries

Nerve-Related Ankle Pain

Children & Youth Conditions

Systemic Conditions That May Cause Ankle Pain

Soft Tissue Inflammation

Other Useful Information

Foot, Ankle & Heel Pain FAQs

Welcome to our comprehensive FAQ guide on Foot, Ankle & Heel Pain. In this guide, we aim to address common questions and concerns related to foot, ankle, and heel pain. We will cover various topics, including ankle injuries, heel pain, Achilles pain, foot pain, shin pain, youth injuries, and balance and proprioception. Whether you're experiencing discomfort or seeking preventive measures, this guide will provide valuable insights and advice to help you understand and manage these conditions effectively.

Ankle Injuries

Heel Pain

Achilles Pain

Foot Pain

Shin Pain

Youth Injuries

Balance & Proprioception

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