Top Tips to Recover from An Ankle Sprain and Get Back on Your Feet!

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Winter sport is just around the corner and one of the most common injuries suffered in sports and affecting the lower limb is Ankle sprains. 


Ankle sprains account for around 22 % of all presentations of sports injuries to Emergency in Western countries. With lateral ankle sprains occurring in 85% of those. Chronic ankle instability has a risk factor of 30 % of those who sustain an initial acute ankle sprain.* 

Physiotherapy clinics are the perfect place to get the advice and rehabilitation you need to help recover and reduce your risk of reinjury in the future.  

sprains are a common injury presenting to emergency departments and physiotherapy clinic everywhere following sporting and daily accidents. What you do in the early days and weeks can significantly reduce the timeframe in which the ankle sprain affects you. Rehabilitating the injury well initially can get you back playing your sport quicker or reduce your risk of it happening again in the future.

An ankle sprain is when injury is sustained to the ligaments that support the structure of the ankle and foot, in cases more often on the outside of the ankle often referred to a “Lateral ankle sprain. The ankle ligaments assist us in all our walking and running motions of the foot and ankle. When you have a sprain to these ligaments you may find yourself limping in pain or to reduce pain around the injury. This can lead to other pains if it doesn’t settle down quickly.  


Winter sports in Australia, like the football codes and netball most commonly involve quite a bit of change of direction, this combined with the contact or other players and the grounds can enhance the risk of Ankle sprains. 


The risk of not giving an ankle sprain the appropriate attention it deserves can lead to chronic ankle sprains and instability in the region. Research has concluded 40% of primary ankle sprains will often report ongoing symptoms and recurring sprains, so it is valuable to in getting the right treatment early.  


What to do if you have an ankle sprain?

Once an ankle sprain has occurred what are the best ways to help yourself get back to doing what you love? 

Ankle sprains affect most commonly the lateral ankle, which has two main ligaments; the Anterior Talo-fibular ligament and the Calcaneofibular ligament.  


Appropriate early treatment should focus on limiting the swelling process and enhance the bodies healing capacity. Physiotherapy can begin very early following a sprained ankle and can help in navigating the inflammation phase and increasing movement around the ankle to help your function 


Phase 1: Manage inflammation 

Phase 2: Enhance ROM and daily function 

Phase 3: Strengthen supporting musculature 

Phase 4: Dynamic control 

Phase 5: Return to sport/activity 

Follow these evidence based tips and you will be back playing your sport or activities sooner.

Phase 1: Manage Inflammation:

Control the swelling and keep the ankle moving if light movement doesn’t hurt. Occasionally when we sustain a high grade sprain, we may need to place you in a boot/brace for a period, however these light exercises will still help throughout the day. Gentle range of motion exercises to help the movement of fluid within the lower leg can assist in managing the swelling. Elevation and compression also are great ways to reduce fluid in the leg and intensity of pain.

Phase 2: Enhance ROM and daily function

Use of a functional support like bandage or brace early on has shown to shorter time back to sport and swelling control and range of motion. 

Phase 3: Strengthen supporting musculature 

Early physiotherapy based treatment to increase range of motion of the ankle joint and reduce pain make walking and moving easier in the short term following. 

Phase 4: Dynamic control and Phase 5: Return to sport/activity

Performing a structured progressive exercise program targeting stretching, strengthening, balance, proprioception and then sport specific exercises. This has also been shown to reduce your risk of re-injury.

Bracing and strapping may be a valuable assistance in your return to sport, your physio can help show you how to apply it for best support.  


When should you begin Physiotherapy is a common question we get in clinic. Normally Early treatment is best and recommended is to start physiotherapy based exercises is immediately and in some cases a low grade sprain may be less than one week.*

Helpful sources:

World J Orthop. 2020 Dec 18; 11(12): 534–558. 

Acute ankle sprain in athletes: Clinical aspects and algorithmic approach 


J Man Manip Ther. 2010 Mar; 18(1): 22–28. 

Evidence-based treatment for ankle injuries: a clinical perspective 



Clin Sports Med. 2010 Jan; 29(1): 157–167.Rehabilitation of Ankle and Foot Injuries in Athletes 

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