Ankle sprains are a common injury in many sports and activities.

The lateral ankle complex is comprised of three ligaments, any of which can be injured during a sprain. Sprains in these tissues commonly occur when the ankle rolls outwards, overstretching the ligaments on the outside of the foot.  The medial ankle complex has 1 large sheath of tissue and less commonly sprains can occur here, this happens when the ankle rolls inwards.

Rolled ankles occur during activities involving rapid changes in one direction, especially on uneven surfaces. The usual mechanism of injury is a combination of inversion (turning foot inwards) and plantar flexion (moving ankle downwards) at a rapid rate.


An ankle sprain may occur when:

  • Exercising on an uneven surface;
  • Stopping or pivoting suddenly;
  • Landing on a poorly positioned foot, eg landing on an object, on someone else, or the ankle getting stuck in one place during a fall.

What do I feel?

  • Patients will often feel an audible snap at the time of the injury with subsequent pain and swelling, as well as difficulty walking;
  • Pain can be located around the outside of the ankle, through the bridge of the front of the ankle and/or through the side of the calf;
  • There may also be some visible bruising/swelling and this can often linger for several weeks following injury;
  • If unable to put any weight through the foot or unable to take 4 steps then it is recommended that further investigation on this foot is sought.

What can I do?

  • Rest – stop exercising, avoid excessive walking;
  • ICE (Ice, Compression and Elevation) the ankle;
  • See a physiotherapist for rehabilitation and exercises.

Physiotherapy techniques may be useful in reduction of pain and improvement in function. The therapist will use typically use a variety of approaches to treat the problem.

Techniques may include:

  • Joint mobilisation;
    • Taping for structural stability;
    • Joint manipulation;
    • Mobilisations with movement;
    • Acupuncture/Dry Needling;
    • Cryotherapy/RICE protocol; 
    • Use of walking aids: Crutches.

This will usually be accompanied by a home exercise programme to address some of the mechanical predispositions that the individual may have, and will typically include pain controls, a series of stretching and lower limb strengthening exercises.

It normally takes four to six weeks for an ankle injury to heal, depending on severity. It is important that you get assessed correctly by a physiotherapist so that you can begin a rehabilitation programme that is appropriate for you and the injury.

This information is intended as a guide only. For specific information regarding injury assessment and management, you should always consult your health professional.