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Ankle Sprains – Management & Prevention

Ankle sprains are extremely common, accounting for 40 percent of all sports injuries and 10 percent of all muscular/skeletal injuries, according to a July 2016 summary in Podiatry Today. Sports mishaps, work miscues, and walking missteps can all lead to ankle sprains. Here’s what to do at home, and when to see a doctor or physical therapist help your ankle to heal.

As you step onto a cracked footpath or an overturned stone, or just an uneven surface, your foot and ankle could twist. Sports involving lateral or cutting actions, such as football, cricket, or tennis, can also cause sprains. 

The difference between a strain and a sprain is a matter of degree. “A strain is a mild stretch of a tendon or a ligament, whereas a sprain is more severe,” The sprain and strain are more soft-tissue, whereas a fracture would be an extreme injury where you break a bone.

People who have hypermobile or flexible feet tend to be more susceptible to ankle sprains, due to the extreme range of motion that occurs in the midfoot. Conditions such as extreme flatfeet, or structural and functional deformities in the rear or midfoot, make people vulnerable to sprains. Some patients have chronic, repetitive sprains. That can be attributable to an injury to the outer part of the ankle – the ligaments are just too loose. In some cases, patients may benefit from ankle-stabilizing surgery to tighten the ligaments.


RICE Right Away

The standard regimen for most ankle sprains is RICE – rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Start with RICE as an immediate home remedy:

  • Rest: It takes about 24 to 48 hours to get swelling down and stabilize the ankle before you should test it with significant activity,

  • Ice: Fill a bag with ice to place on your ankle to reduce swelling. If an ice pack is not available, place a package of frozen peas or other frozen packets around your injured ankle.

  • Compression: Compressing the ankle pushes swelling out of the joint, A compression wrap or ankle brace also provides support and stability to the ankle.

  • Elevation: Propping your foot and ankle on a stack of pillows to raise it above the rest of the leg will temporarily relieve swelling, preventing it from moving down into the foot.

Over-the-counter medications like paracetamol work well for mild ankle pain. With obvious dislocation, fracture, or extensive bruising, tenderness, and increasing swelling consider seeing a specialist immediately. An X-ray is indicated if 48 hours after the injury you put weight on your ankle and it still hurts. Physical therapy is an option if ankle-sprain recovery is lagging. A physical therapist might suggest crutches, if needed, and offer a variety of treatments. It takes soft tissue at least four to six weeks to get stronger after an acute injury, so it’s better not to rush back into action.


The most important point to keep in mind when talking about ankle injuries, then, is to prevent the condition from becoming chronic or recurrent.

  • Wear proper, well-fitting shoes when you walk, run or exercise.

  • Get your foot analyzed by a foot specialist to check on flat feet, ankle stability, etc.

  • Stretch gently and adequately before and after athletic or recreational activities.

  • Avoid sharp turns and quick changes in direction and movement.

  • Consider taping the ankle or wearing a brace for strenuous sports, especially if you have a previous injury

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