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Ankle Sprain – Treatment, Recovery Time, Exercises, Symptoms, Causes

Written by Dr.Mary

The majority of individuals has sprained ankle some time in their life. But, if the ankles get painful or swollen after it is twisted, it is more likely sprained. This only means that the ligaments in the ankle have been possibly torn or stretched beyond normal use.

Ankle sprains are fairly common, but are not always considered a minor injury. Many individuals with serious or repeated sprains may develop chronic joint weakness or pain. But proper treatment of a sprain of the ankle may help to prevent any ongoing problems with the ankle.

Ankle Sprain Symptoms

When an ankle sprains, the tissue becomes injured and inflamed. The blood vessels in this area become what is known as “leaky” which allows fluid to ooze into the tissues that are soft and surround the joint. White cells in the blood are the reason for the inflammation as they migrate to that area as well as the flow of blood increases. The following are symptoms or signs of inflammation:

  • Swelling – caused by the increase of fluid in tissue – this is often severe
  • Pain – nerves are very sensitive. The joint not only hurts but can cause a throbbing pain. This pain will worsen when the area that is sore is pressed on or the foot is moved in certain directions (depending on which ligament is injured) as well as standing or walking.
  • Hot and red – caused by blood flow increased to the injured area

Ankle Sprain Causes

Exactly what is a sprained ankle? A sprain is when the ligaments in the ankle area are injured when stretched by forces that are beyond normal. This occurs normally when the foot is inverted or turned inward. This type of injury may happen in some of the following ways:

  • Planting the foot awkwardly when stepping up or down, running, or doing rather simple tasks such as getting out of bed.
  • Stepping on an irregular surface, for instance stepping in a hole
  • Athletic events when 1 player steps on another player (more common than you would think – especially in a basketball game)
  • Injuries known as inversion where the foot rolls inward. This is more common than eversion injuries where the foot twists outward

Normally a sprain ankle does not need a visit to your doctor. But the difficulty is when to know just a sprain from a serious injury. If some of the following happens, the doctor should be contacted:

  • Uncontrolled pain – even when using over the counter drugs, ice and elevation
  • Incapable of walking or unable to walk further than a couple of steps without pain that is severe
  • Ankle does not improve within 5 to 7 days. Pain does not have to be totally gone, but it should be improving.

The warnings to get to an emergency room are about the same. The following situations advocate an even more serious damage like a fracture or perhaps a splint is needed in order to control pain:

  • Uncontrolled or severe pain
  • Not able to move injured ankle
  • Ankle or foot is misshapen further than swelling that is normal
  • Cannot walk 4 steps, even by limping
  • Serious pain upon pressing on the lateral malleolus or medial malleolus that are the bumps on each side of the ankle that are bony
  • No feeling in toes or foot
  • Swelling and pain in the rear of ankle – heel pain, over the Achilles tendon or not able to push toes down forward
  • Swelling or pain in higher part of the lower leg right beneath the knee or swelling of the muscle in the calf
  • Redness or streaks of red migrating out from the injury are seen

Ankle Sprain Treatment

  • The physician will do a physical exam to feel for a fracture or other injury that is more serious and needs immediate care. This exam will check that arteries or nerves to the foot have not become damaged and that the knee and rest of the leg is ok.
  • The physician will move and handle the ankle and foot to see what bony regions are involved.
  • The Achilles tendon will also be checked for any signs or symptoms of rupture.
  • X-rays will normally be taken in order to confirm if a fracture is involved. In some cases of fracture, a CT scan can also be needed.

Treatment advised by the physician will be comparable to home care, particularly using the RICE method for any inflammation.

RICE – rest, ice, compression and elevation


This averts any further injury as well as avoids any stress on tissue that is already inflamed.

  • The ankle joint should be put at rest by wearing splint or a brace
  • Severe sprains can be treated with crutches


This is the best treatment

  • Using ice on the injury will do much more than medication
  • Ice stops the increased blood flow to the area that is injured
  • Ice reduces redness, warmth as well as swelling
  • Apply the ice as quickly after the injury as possible as ice can stop most of the inflammation from even beginning
  • Do not apply the ice directly on the skin. Use a towel between the injury and the ice or use an ice bag. Apply ice for twenty minutes each time, with thirty minutes in between. This will prevent frostbite from occurring.


Compression provides support as well as helps to prevent inflammation


  • Elastic wraps such as Ace bandages to immobilize the ankle
  • Don’t apply these wraps too tightly


Keep the injured area up as high as possible as this will help the body absorb the fluid that has leaked into the tissue

  • Prop the ankle up above the heart level
  • Sit in a chair that reclines or prop the legs up with pillows

Pain drugs

Anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen and naproxen can combat the swelling and reduce the pain

The physician might apply a cast or brace in order to reduce motion of the ankle. Crutches are normally provided so that the individual doesn’t have to bear any weight on the ankle

The most used medications for ankle sprains are anti-inflammatory drugs as mentioned above. If the individual cannot endure these type drugs, then Tylenol or narcotics are options.

Ankle Sprain Recovery Time

There are 2 easy tests to use in determining when a sprained ankle is well enough to get back to normal activities. Stand on the ankle for 1 minute with the eyes closed or jump up and down 10 times in a row. If these 2 tests can be done without any pain then the ankle is ready for normal activities.

Minor sprain should be healed in approximately 2 week, while more serious injuries involving tears of the ligaments could take as long as 2 months in order to heal completely.

Ankle Sprain Exercises

After the swelling and pain has removed, the next step to take is to begin some rehab exercises and work to prevent any future sprains.

Use the below exercises to raise ankle motion range after injury.

Each of these exercises – except for the Alphabet – are executed while on the floor or other surface that is flat with the legs completely stretched, knees out in front. Each exercise needs to be performed ten times.


  • Using only the ankle, point the foot back to the nose (maintain straight knees). Remain until it begins to be uncomfortable or can’t tilt it back any more.
  • Hold position for 15 seconds.
  • Return to beginning position.

Plantar flexion

  • Using only the ankle, point the foot forward (maintain straight knees). Remain until it begins to be uncomfortable or can’t move it any more.
  • Hold position for 15 seconds.
  • Return to beginning position.


  • Using only the ankle, keep the toes pointed up, turn the foot in, so the sole is facing the other leg. Remain until it begins to be uncomfortable or can’t turn the foot inward any longer.
  • Hold position for 15 seconds.
  • Return to beginning position.


  • Using only the ankle, keeping the toes pointed up, turn the foot out, away from the other leg. Remain until it begins to be uncomfortable or can’t turn the foot outward any longer.
  • Hold position for 15 seconds.
  • Return to beginning position.

The Alphabet

  • Sit on a chair with foot hanging in the air or on a bed with the foot dangling off the edge.
  • Draw each letter of the Alphabet by moving the ankle with the big toe being used as the “pencil.”

Ankle Sprain Pictures

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