Understanding Ankle Sprains

  • A 'sprain' is the stretching or tearing of ligaments, commonly on the outside of the ankle;
  • Ligaments on the outside of the ankle are usually injured when the ankle is forced inwards (see image below);
  • Injury severity depends on the number of ligaments affected and the extent of the tear(s);
  • Ankle sprains are often minor and able to be managed with the R.I.C.E.R. principle (Rest. Ice. Compress. Elevate. Rehab/Refer);
  • Rehabilitation improves ankle mobility and strength to prevent future ankle sprains;
  • The most effective rehabilitation begins after 3-4 days with the help of a physiotherapist;
  • Sometimes, an ankle sprain damages the underlying bone(s). A physiotherapist will advise whether boney damage is suspected and whether an x-ray is required;
  • Most ankle sprains recover within two or three weeks;
  • Complex or severe ankle sprains may need to be immobilised using a CAM (Controlled Ankle Movement) boot, also known as a 'moon boot';
  • Immobilisation protects the injured ligaments and allows them to knit together, although a boot is not always required;
  • Rehabilitation includes:
    •  Understanding and applying the R.I.C.E.R principle to minimise pain and swelling
    • Massage and stretches to regain ankle movement
    • Exercises to improve strength, balance, endurance and spring!
    • Guidance on returning to sport/work
    • Advise on the use of ankle braces/tape
    • Strategies to prevent future ankle sprain

Laura Parbly - Physiotherapist - Lifecare Croydon

Rolling the foot inwards is a common way of spraining ligaments on the outside of the ankle