Sprained Ankle


A sudden twist or roll of the ankle is a common cause of sprains, often leading to ligament damage. Sprained Ankle typically occurs during sports-related activities but can also happen in everyday situations, such as stepping on an uneven surface or slipping while walking.

A rapid change in direction or accidental misstep can rapidly force the foot into an unnatural position, overstressing the ligaments and resulting in painful tears. While anyone can experience this unfortunate incident, individuals who regularly engage in high-risk activities like basketball or soccer are particularly susceptible.

Ergo, caution and appropriate footwear are vital for prevention.

Sports-related activities

Engaging in sports activities can significantly increase the risk of spraining an ankle. The sudden twists, turns, and quick movements involved in sports make the ankles susceptible to injury.

Sports like basketball, soccer, tennis, and football often involve jumping or changing direction abruptly, making them particularly prone to ankle sprains. Running on rough terrain or engaging in high-impact activities can also stress the ligaments surrounding the ankle joint.

To prevent ankle sprains during sports activities, wearing supportive footwear that provides stability and cushioning for the feet is vital. Additionally, performing regular exercises to strengthen the muscles around the ankles can help improve stability and reduce the risk of injury.

Uneven surfaces

Walking or running on uneven surfaces increases the risk of spraining your ankle. Uneven surfaces, such as gravel paths, rocky terrain, or even just a curb you didn’t notice, can easily cause your foot to twist or roll and put excessive stress on the ligaments in your ankle.

This sudden twisting motion can lead to a sprained ankle and result in pain, swelling, and difficulty walking. It is important to be cautious when navigating uneven surfaces and always pay attention to where you are stepping to reduce the chances of an ankle injury.

Improper footwear

Wearing improper footwear is a common cause of sprained ankles. When you don’t have the right shoes, your feet are not properly supported, making them more susceptible to twisting or rolling.

This can happen when participating in sports or even just walking on uneven surfaces. Shoes that lack stability and cushioning increase the risk of ankle injuries. By wearing appropriate footwear that provides proper arch support and fits well, you can significantly reduce the chances of spraining your ankle.

Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment of Sprained Ankle

Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment of Sprained Ankle
Photo Credit: Drazen Zigic, Freepik

Swelling, pain, and bruising are common symptoms of a sprained ankle. Prompt diagnosis and treatment are essential for a speedy recovery. Learn more about the treatment options and how to manage this injury effectively.


Swelling is one of the key symptoms of a sprained ankle. When you sprain your ankle, the ligaments in the affected area become stretched or torn, leading to inflammation and an accumulation of fluid within the tissues.

This can cause visible swelling around the ankle joint, making it appear larger than usual. In addition to its physical appearance, swelling can also result in discomfort and restricted movement.

Pain and tenderness

Pain and tenderness are common symptoms of a sprained ankle. When you sprain your ankle, the ligaments become stretched or torn, causing pain. The pain level can range from mild to severe, depending on the severity of the injury.

Tenderness is also commonly felt around the injured area, with even gentle pressure causing discomfort. These symptoms can make it difficult to bear weight on the affected ankle and can significantly impact mobility.


Bruising is a common symptom of a sprained ankle. When the ligaments in the ankle are stretched or torn, it can cause blood vessels to break and lead to bruising. The discolouration occurs due to the leakage of blood into nearby tissues.

Bruises may appear immediately after the injury or develop over time, depending on the severity of the sprain. They often present as dark purple or blue patches on and around the affected area.

Difficulty walking or bearing weight

One of the common symptoms of a sprained ankle is difficulty walking or bearing weight on the affected foot. When you have a sprain, the ligaments in your ankle are damaged, making it painful and unstable to put pressure on that leg.

Sprained Ankle: Difficulty walking or bearing weight
Photo Credit: JE Foot & Ankle Associates

You may experience discomfort or pain with each step and find it challenging to walk normally. The severity of this symptom can vary depending on the extent of the ligament damage.

X-rays or other imaging tests for diagnosis

Imaging tests, such as X-rays or MRI scans, often diagnose a sprained ankle. These tests can provide valuable information about the extent of ligament damage and rule out any fractures or other complications.

X-rays are commonly performed to check for bone fractures, while MRI scans can give a more detailed view of soft tissues like ligaments. By seeing the internal structures of the ankle through imaging, healthcare professionals can better determine the appropriate treatment plan for an individual with a sprained ankle.

R.I.C.E. method (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation)

One effective method to treat a sprained ankle is the R.I.C.E. approach: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. First, giving your ankle ample rest is essential to allow the injured ligaments to heal properly.

Avoid weighting the affected ankle and minimise physical activity that may further aggravate the injury.

Icing the ankle can help reduce inflammation and alleviate pain. Apply an ice pack or a cold compress wrapped in a cloth for about 15-20 minutes every two to three hours during the first few days after the sprain.

Compression is another key component of treating a sprained ankle. Wrap an elastic bandage snugly around your ankle but ensure not to wrap it too tightly as this could impede blood flow.

Compression helps reduce swelling and provides support to stabilise the joint.

Pain medication

Pain medication is often recommended as part of the treatment for a sprained ankle. Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, can help to reduce pain and inflammation in the affected area.

Sprained Ankle: Pain Medication
Photo Credit: stefamerpik, Freepik

These medications block the production of certain chemicals that cause pain and swelling. It’s important to follow the dosage instructions and consult a healthcare professional if you have any concerns or pre-existing medical conditions.

Taking pain medication can provide temporary relief while your ankle heals, but it’s essential to remember that it should not be relied upon as a long-term solution for managing pain or promoting healing.

Physical therapy exercises

One key aspect of treating a sprained ankle is incorporating physical therapy exercises into your recovery plan. These exercises aim to strengthen the muscles around the ankle, improve stability, and restore full range of motion.

Performing these exercises regularly can help speed up your healing process and reduce the risk of future sprains. You may be guided by a physiotherapist who will tailor the exercise program to your specific needs and stage of recovery.

From gentle range-of-motion exercises to more advanced balance and strengthening activities, physical therapy exercises are essential in restoring function to your injured ankle.

Ankle braces or supports

Ankle braces or supports are commonly used to treat a sprained ankle. These devices provide stability and help prevent further injury by restricting excessive movement of the ankle joint.

Ankle braces can be worn during physical activity or throughout the day. They are designed to fit snugly around the foot and lower leg, supporting weak or injured ligaments.

An ankle brace can help reduce pain and swelling while promoting the healing of the damaged ligaments. The brace helps limit motion in the ankle, allowing for proper rest and protection during recovery.

It is important to seek professional guidance when selecting an ankle brace, as different types may be recommended depending on the severity of your sprain.

Research has shown that using an ankle brace after a sprained ankle can significantly decrease re-injury risk. This makes it an essential tool not only during rehabilitation but also for preventing future problems with instability or chronic pain in the affected area.

Surgery in severe cases

Surgery may be necessary to repair the damaged ligaments in some severe cases of ankle sprains. Surgery is typically recommended when there is significant tearing or complete rupture of the ligaments, and conservative treatments have not been sufficient in promoting proper healing and stability.

Sprained ankle requires surgery in some cases.
Photo Credit: Drazen Zigic, Freepik

During the surgical procedure, the torn ligaments are repaired or reconstructed using sutures or tissue grafts. Following surgery, a period of immobilisation and rehabilitation is required for proper healing and restoration of function.

While surgery is not always needed for ankle sprains, it can be a viable option for those with more severe injuries who require additional support in their recovery process.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Sprained Ankle

How long does a sprained ankle take to heal?

The healing time for a sprained ankle varies depending on the severity of the sprain but typically ranges from a few weeks to several months.

How do I know how badly my ankle is sprained?

The severity of an ankle sprain is often judged by the level of pain, swelling, and inability to bear weight or move the ankle. A healthcare professional can provide a definitive diagnosis and assess the severity.

Is it okay to walk on a sprained ankle?

It depends on the severity of the sprain. For minor sprains, walking may be possible with minimal discomfort. However, walking can exacerbate pain and delay healing for more severe sprains.

What is the best thing to do for a sprained ankle?

Rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE protocol) are usually recommended initially for a sprained ankle. Consulting with a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan is also essential.