• Sprained Ankles – What you need to know

  • Treating a sprained ankle the RIGHT way early on means a stronger ankle, faster recovery and less chance of re-injury. In this post we will help you understand what a sprained ankle involves, what you can do to help it straight away and why immediate physio treatment is so critical.

    Sprained ankles are known by a few different names such as a twisted ankle, rolled ankle, lateral ankle sprain or inversion ankle sprain

    Ankle injuries make up around a 5th of all sporting injuries and it is something that is commonly heard of but commonly passed off as a minor injury.

    The most common type of sprained ankle is easily the lateral ankle sprain (85%), and that is what we are going to discuss here.

    The FACTS:

    sprained ankle - lateral ligamentsHow it happens:

    You typically sprain your ankle when your foot is forced inward (inversion) and down (plantarflexion) at the same time – most often when changing direction, turning and/or on uneven surfaces.

    This puts the ligaments under too much stress too fast, which causes a tear of one or more of your ankle ligaments.

    Quick anatomy:

    The outer (lateral) ankle has 3 ligaments supporting it, with the weakest of these (and so the most often injured) being the ATFL (anterior talo-fibular ligament). The ATFL is the ligament at the front of the ankle shown here and in most simple sprains, this is the one sprained with or without the ligament below it.

    Sprained ankle recovery time:

    The recovery time is 2-6 weeks (if looked after properly) and keep in mind, even if it feels bad now, if you do all the right things you will be one of the 95% who return to sport and activity within 6 weeks.

    Our advice:

    Not taking ankle rehab seriously often leads to chronic ankle pain, long-term disability and other/recurrent injuries. Although the pain from ankle injuries decreases quickly, the body takes a specific amount of time to heal your injury fully. No amount of treatment will change the length of time something naturally takes to heal. However no treatment and getting back into things too quickly DOES change the length of time taken to naturally heal, and often it will cause the ankle to never heal fully. In fact, it takes between 16 and 40 WEEKS to regain full tensile strength!

    Now that’s not to say that you will be out of action for 16 weeks, but it is something to keep in mind when trying to push yourself for a quick recovery.

    Getting back into things too quickly puts you at a very high risk of re-injuring your ankle. Even with ankle brace support! And the second time around you will take longer to feel back to normal.

    That is why it is so important to get treated early and follow the specific guidelines set out for you by your physio. Treatments may continue even once you are back to playing, and this is because your ankle is still healing and it needs to re-learn how to look after itself.

    The Treatment:

    1. First 72 Hours

    A great way to drastically reduce healing and recovery time in ankle sprains – and most other strains and sprains is to follow the RICE principles – Have a quick look at this post, which will explain it easily

    Just remember, with icing your ankle, do not ice it for more than 15 minutes at one time – try 10 on, 10 off etc.

    Note: It is important to rule out fractures early on and begin ROM exercises to mimimise loss of strength and balance – so come on in and see a physio who will comprehensively assess your ankle and set a plan with you while ruling out any fractures at the same time.

    2. Healing Phase

    During this phase, new ligament tissue and scar tissue is being laied down – This is most improtant phase and it is improtant too:

    • Minimise unnecessary scarring – This is done through exercises and joint mobilisations and other techniques during your treatment sessions. Scar tissue is in-flexible and so more likely to re-tear
    • Place controlled force through the injured tissue – The human body heals and adapts to the forces that are put through it – So if you put the right forces through the ligaments, they will heal stronger! This means gradual progression of rehab exercises (we will guide you through and keep you challenged) and not babying the ankle too much.
    • Regain proprioception – This is the ability for your brain to know where your ankle is – little receptiors in your ankle tell your brain exactly what is happening. BUT after a sprained ankle, the ankle loses a lot of this ability and is delayed, meaning slower reflexes and more risk of re-injuring your ankle. Not good, so that’s why we are here to guide your through the right re-training exercises to get your ankle back to it’s best.

    3. Full recovery

    Full recovery

    Full recovery

    This is where we get that extra 10% that gets you ready to get back to it, whether it be Netball, Rugby, Football or simply walking the dog. We will undertake sports-specific treatment and rehab so that you are ready. There is no point getting back to sport at 90% and then having to start the process again in 6 weeks time – it happens far too often.


    So, in conclusion, ankles can heal very well and strong if the right rehab is done, and followed through with. Come in and see the team to get started with your rehab, whether you injured your ankle yesterday or 6 months ago – We can and will help.