What is an ankle sprain?
A sprained ankle is an injury that occurs when you roll, twist, or turn your ankle in an unnatural way. This can stretch or tear the tough bands of tissue (ligaments) that help hold your ankle bones together. Ankle sprains can happen to anyone at any age.
Ligaments help stabilize joints, preventing excessive movement. Three ligaments keep your ankle bones from shifting out of place. A sprained ankle occurs when the ligaments are forced beyond their normal range of motion, which can cause ankle ligaments to stretch, partially tear or tear completely. Most sprained ankles involve injuries to the ligaments on the lateral (outer) side of the ankle.
Treatment for a sprained ankle depends on the severity of the injury. Without proper treatment and rehabilitation, a more severe sprain can weaken your ankle—making it more likely that you will injure it again in the future. Repeated ankle sprains can lead to long-term problems, including chronic ankle pain, arthritis, and ongoing instability.
You also lose some muscle tone as you age, which makes the ankle more prone to injury. This is why strengthening your calves, using good body mechanics, and visiting BPC are great ways to ensure your ankle stays strong.
The common causes for ankle pain could be from the following activities:
Causes in your everyday life
- Work out or exercise injuries – participating in sports that require cutting actions, rolling or twisting of the foot, for example, football, basketball, volleyball, tennis, badminton, and trail running.
- Others injuring you – during certain contact sports, your teammate or opponent may step on your foot while you are running, causing your foot to twist or roll to the side. For example, going for a rebound in basketball and landing on someone else’s foot.
- Walking on uneven surfaces – day to day commutes to work may include walking on pavements that are uneven or floors that are broken and this increases the risk of ankle sprains considerably.
- Lack of warm up and stretching prior to and after exercise – not stretching prior to exercise does not allow the muscles to loosen up and become resistant to the impact they are about to undergo, thereby increasing the chance of injury. Not stretching after exercise can leave muscles overly tense and also prone to injury.
- Wearing high heel shoes or shoes that don’t fit well – heeled shoes are hard to balance in, can break, and susceptible to twisting your ankle. Wearing shoes that are a size too big or too small can also cause you to lose your balance easily.
- Having a previous ankle injury – if your previous ankle injury was not well treated, it won’t be long before you’ll twist your ankle again. Your calves and ligaments around the ankle must be strong enough to prevent re-injury.
- A fall that causes your ankle to twist – this could be as simple as stepping up and down stairs, losing your balance or doing everyday things like getting out of bed
Types of Ankle Sprain and their severity
- Grade 1 Sprain (Mild)
- Your ligaments are stretched but not torn.
- Some microscopic tearing of the ligament fibers.
- Mild tenderness and swelling around the ankle.
- Some pain and stiffness, but the ankle still feels stable.
- Grade 2 Sprain (Moderate)
- Partial tearing of the ligament.
- Joint isn’t totally unstable but you cannot move it as much as usual.
- Swelling and moderate pain.
- When moving the ankle, there is abnormal looseness of the ankle joint.
- Grade 3 Sprain (Severe)
- Complete tearing of the ligament.
- Ankle is very unstable.
- There is a lot of pain, tenderness and swelling around the ankle.
- No ability to move the ankle in different directions.
Ankle Pain FAQs
Yes, physiotherapy is beneficial for a sprained ankle. It helps reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation while improving ankle strength, stability, and range of motion through targeted exercises and manual therapies.
The healing time for a sprained ankle varies based on the severity of the injury. With proper physiotherapy, mild sprains may recover in a few weeks, while more severe sprains could take several months for complete healing.
Walking on a sprained ankle without proper support or rehabilitation can worsen the injury. In the initial stages, it's best to avoid putting weight on the injured ankle. Later, under the guidance of a physiotherapist, controlled weight-bearing exercises can help strengthen it.
In the initial stage, resting the sprained ankle is crucial to prevent further damage and promote healing. As the healing progresses, controlled and guided walking or weight-bearing exercises prescribed by a physiotherapist can aid in recovery.
In the majority of cases, sprained ankle do fully heal with appropriate care, rest, and physiotherapy. However, the extent of healing and the time it takes can vary depending on the severity of the sprain and individual factor.
It's essential to avoid walking on a sprained ankle immediately after the injury. Rest and protect the ankle in the first 24-48 hours. After that, consult with a physiotherapist who will guide you on when to begin controlled weight-bearing activities based on the injury's progress.
Physiotherapy exercises for a sprained ankle often include calf stretches, ankle range-of-motion exercises, strengthening exercises like resistance band exercises, toe curls, and balance exercises to improve stability.
During the initial stages of a sprained ankle, avoid high-impact activities, running, jumping, and activities that put excessive strain on the injured ankle. Additionally, avoid exercises that cause pain or discomfort, and always follow your physiotherapist's advice.
A sprained ankle is considered healed when you can walk, bear weight, and perform daily activities without significant pain or instability. Full recovery is indicated by restored range of motion, strength, and flexibility, as well as the ability to engage in sports or exercise without limitations. Always consult your physiotherapist for confirmation.