Ankle sprains occur when one or more ligaments that support the ankle joint gets injured. Serious ankle sprains if left untreated, can lead to recurrent ankle sprains.
An ankle sprain is an injury to the ankle ligament(s). An inversion ankle sprain is one of the most common injuries and most people achieve full recovery with appropriate treatment.After an ankle sprain, it is normal to notice swelling over the ankle. Pain and swelling are part of the body’s healing process. However, excessive pain and swelling can inhibit your ability to move and recover, hence it is important to take steps to help manage the swelling.
In addition to this, excessive pain and swelling could be a sign that the injury might be more serious than just an ankle sprain alone. Seeking medical help is advised.
While many sprains are not serious and recover well within 6 to 12 weeks, some people suffer from repeated ankle sprains that can cause more problems if left untreated. Serious sprains if left untreated, can result in persistent pain and swelling affecting many aspects of your daily life.
Ankle sprains usually occur when we walk or run on uneven ground, or when we play sports and accidentally twist our ankle awkwardly. Particular for those who engage in sports that require multi-directional movement like judo, badminton or basketball are at risk. Sports that are conducted on uneven playing surfaces, like football or rugby, have even higher risk.
Rehabilitation can help you regain strength, balance and coordination before you return to activity.
However, in the first week after you sprained your ankle, it is important that you rest your ankle sufficiently and adopt these measures to control your discomfort.
Using the acronym
PRICE, we can manage the initial swelling and pain after an ankle sprain.
ProtectProtecting the ankle means avoiding actions that would cause potential injury or further harm, such as wearing high-heels and walking on slopes. You should also wear an ankle brace until you have recovered. In some cases as advised by the doctor, using an offloading walker boot might be helpful for a short period of time.
RestRest the ankle to allow it time to heal. We encourage ‘relative rest’, where you reduce the use of the affected foot for three to seven days. You should feel better progressively, following which you can begin to put some weight on the ankle.
IceIce the ankle immediately following the injury by placing crushed ice in a bag or a cold compress over the sore ankle to help reduce pain and inflammation. Apply for about 15 to 20 minutes, two to three times per day.
CompressCompress the ankle to immobilise it by wrapping it firmly with an elastic bandage. This will also help with the swelling. Remove the bandage when doing rehabilitation exercises and when in bed.
ElevateElevate your sprained ankle above the level of your heart as often as possible, and especially if you are sitting or lying for long periods of time.
Movement is crucial for recovery but too much may increase your pain. Let pain be your guide to how much you should be moving. You should at least move your ankle every hourly. We recommend you perform the exercise below until you see your doctor or physiotherapist.
When can I recover fully and return to normal daily activities?The time it takes for you to recover often depends on the severity of your injury. A simple (mild) ankle sprain should allow you to walk comfortably within one to two weeks. Many sprains take six to 12 weeks to feel much better. If you’re an active person, it is likely that you can return to jogging at six weeks. If this is the first time you experience an ankle sprain, the risk of suffering another sprain on the same ankle is estimated to be as high as 40 to 80%. If you feel that your ankle is unstable when you walk, this is a sign that you will require specific intervention. Discuss with your doctor regarding getting a referral for physiotherapy. Avoid undulating terrain or activities that require running, jumping and pivoting until you have overcome the sensation of instability and regained your confidence.
Why am I not getting better? Most people fully recover from ankle sprains within 6-12 weeks, depending on the severity of the ankle sprain. If you find that you are not getting better with time, please highlight to your physiotherapist or doctor so that they can re-assess your condition to rule out the possibility of other injuries.
What else should I avoid? You should refrain from putting heat over the affected area within one week after injury. You should also avoid alcohol consumption as alcohol increases the bleeding and swelling around the injured soft tissue.