What to Do About a Sprained Ankle

Sprained Ankle’s are one of the most common musculoskeletal injuries that we see at Precision Physio. They can happen to everyone – whether you’re athletic or not.

Ankle injuries most commonly occur in sports requiring jumping, turning, twisting and changing direction type movements such as basketball, netball, football and so on.


The ankle joint is a hinge joint formed between the shin bones (tibia and fibula) and the talus (the bone at the top of the foot). This hinge joint has the capability of both pointing your toes upwards (dorsiflexion) and pointing them towards the floor (plantarflexion).

There is also the subtalar joint between the calcaneus (heel bone) and the talus, which allows the ankle to rotate in and out (inversion and eversion).

The joints are stabilised by a few ligaments on the outside of the ankle.

These ligaments are the anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL), calcaneofibular ligament (CFL) and the posterior talofibular ligament (PTFL). Out of these 2 ligaments, the ATFL is the most commonly sprained ligament of the ankle, accounting for more than 80% of all ankle sprains.

Signs You’ve Sprained Your Ankle

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Inability to walk or weight bear on the injured ankle
  • Stiffness

The signs of an ankle sprain are very similar to that of a fracture. However, the management of an ankle fracture versus an ankle sprain is entirely different, which is why it is important that the ankle is evaluated by a doctor or Physio as soon as possible, with the appropriate referral for scans to rule out a fracture.

Grading of ankle sprains

Sprains are graded on a scale of 1 to 3 (mild, moderate and severe).

Grade Description
1 (mild) –        Minor strain

–        Minimal pain

–        Little or no joint instability

–        Mild pain with weight bearing

–        Mild swelling

2 (moderate) –        Incomplete tear

–        Moderate to severe pain

–        Moderate instability of joint

–        Swelling and stiffness

–        Pain with weight bearing activities

3 (severe) –        Complete tear of the ligament

–        Severe pain followed by minimal pain

–        Severe swelling

–        Gross instability of the joint

–        Possible pain with weight bearing

Management of A Sprained Ankle

The management of the sprained ankle depends on the grade of the sprain.

Grade 1 –        Use R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression and elevation)

–        Ice should be used immediately to help with swelling (10 minutes on, 10 minutes off)

–        Elevate above the chest for the first 48 hours

–        Rest the ankle and try not to walk on it. Aids such as crutches or walking sticks can be used to help reduce the weight bearing

–        Compression dressings and wraps can be used to immobilise and support the ankle

Grade 2 –        Use R.I.C.E.

–        A splint or CAMboot may also be used to help immobilise the ankle for upto 4 weeks

Grade 3 –        Use R.I.C.E.

–        A splint or CAMboot may be used for upto 4 weeks

–        Anti-inflammatory drugs can be used to control pain and inflammation

–        Surgery may also be considered in younger, athletic patients

–        Grade 3 strains generally take considerably longer to heal

What Can I Do To Help Prevent an Ankle Injury?

There are exercises that you can do to help protect your ankle from getting sprained. These exercises are aimed at improving your flexibility, strength, and balance.

Here’s 3 simple exercises you can do to help prevent ankle injury:

Calf Stretch
  1. Keep your front foot you want to stretch, about 8cm from the wall and have the other foot behind
  2. Place your hands on the wall, shoulder width apart
  3. Keep the back leg straight and both heels flat on the ground
  4. Gently bring your front knee to the wall. If your front heel lifts, move your foot slightly closer to the wall. Ensure the heel is always flat on the ground
  5. Hold this position for 45 seconds, then swap sides. Do this 10 times on both sides, throughout the day
Calf Raises
  1. Stand up straight even your weight even on both feet
  2. Push through the balls of your feet and raise your heels up until you are standing on your toes
  3. Slowly lower yourself down and repeat. Do 3 sets of 10 reps
Single Leg Balance
  1. Stand on one leg for 30 seconds. If this is too easy, you can stand on a pillow or a towel as these are unstable surfaces so you will challenge your ankle even more. You can also stand on 1 leg with your eyes closed for even more of a challenge!

Want To Know More?

We’d suggest contacting our team at Precision Physio, so that we can help you with your individual case.

How Do I Book An Appointment?

We’re taking the health of our clients, members and staff very seriously and our preference would be for you to call to book an appointment so that we can make sure to explain our approach to keeping you safe. You can call any of these numbers to schedule a session:

Online Consultations

Evolving with the current environment, we are also now offering online appointments, meaning that we can support anyone who is unable to leave their home. Sessions are done via our state of the art Telehealth system and as long as you have a laptop or tablet with an inbuilt camera, or a phone with camera, we can help!

To learn more about online consultations, please call us on any of the numbers listed above.

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