Ankle sprains are common injuries that can occur by stepping onto an uneven surface or through sporting events such as running, soccer, basketball or volleyball. Sprains happen when a ligament, which is a connective tissue that supports a joint, is over-stretched (grade I), partially torn (grade II) or fully torn (grade III). The majority of ankle sprains occur on the outside of the ankle. Often when we roll our ankle, the foot turns inwards which stretches the ligaments on the outside of the ankle.

Pain is usually the first symptom, with swelling appearing within hours of the injury. You may also notice bruising and have difficulty putting weight through your foot. In severe cases, you may wish to see your physician to rule out fractures.

After an ankle sprain it is important to follow the “RICE principle” as soon as possible. This stands for Rest, Ice, Compress and Elevate. The RICE principle helps to promote healing, and to reduce pain and swelling. More severe sprains may require the use of bracing and/or the use of crutches.

Physiotherapy treatment for grade II and III sprains should be started early after an injury. Studies show that early physiotherapy intervention reduces the length of recovery time.

Physiotherapy will help to:

  • Reduce inflammation
  • Regain full movement
  • Improve circulation to speed healing
  • Increase muscle strength
  • Improve balance reactions to help reduce risk of future injury

Most ankle sprains will heal in approximately 4-8 weeks depending on the severity of the sprain. However, even after the healing has occurred you should ensure that you have developed adequate strength in your ankle so you can return to your sport or work without any further complications.