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Sprained Ankle

Sprained Ankle - Why does this happen?

The ankle is a hinge joint which connects the lower end of the tibia and fibula to the talus bone in the foot.   The joint is stabilised by a strong deltoid ligament on the inside of the ankle and the weaker, lateral ligaments on the outside.  There are three lateral ligaments which attach from the fibula (lower leg) to the talus and calcaneus (small bones in the foot). 


A Sprained Ankle is a tear to one or more parts of the lateral ligament.  This is often due to overstretching, repeated stress or a change in stress on the ligament.  A Sprained Ankle will usually occur due to the ankle being turned inwards caused by a twisting motion.  Muscle imbalance and poor muscle timing may contribute to this 

What are the symptoms?
  • Pain and tenderness on the outside of the ankle.
  • Pain is worse on walking and weight bearing.
  • Swelling and bruising on the outsdie of the ankle.
  • Pain is relieved after a period of rest.    
Diagnosing  Sprained Ankle 

Your GP or Physiotherapist can usually diagnose an Sprained Ankle by simply examining your leg and hearing where the pain is and how it started.


X-rays and other tests are not usually necessary.
What is the treatment?

A Sprained Ankle will usually recover with some simple changes to daily activity and exercise.  By trying to avoid or reduce the activity which causes the pain, you will allow the damaged tendon time recover and heal. 


To help reduce the symptoms an 'ice pack' can be placed on the painful area for 15 - 20 minutes, twice a day.  Do not place the 'ice pack' directly on the skin.  Wrap the 'ice pack' in a damp towel before placing on the painful area to ensure you do not burn the skin.  


When possible elevate the leg during the first 48 hours.


During the initial painful stages it is important to manage the pain.  Wearing a supportive shoe or boot is beneficial to reduce the stress on the ligament as it heals.
Painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications  -  These may be prescribed by your GP if the pain is costant.  This is a temporary measure to break the pain cycle, but can continue as required.
Exercise  -  Exercise is important to help regain full ankle movement in the acute stage. Once the pain has settled it is important to strengthen the surrounding muscles and work on your balance to help prevent reoccurrence.  Click here for a list of exercises suitable for a Sprained Ankle.
Biomechanical Analysis  -   If there are significant mechanical problems insoles or specific trainers may improve your leg position and help avoid further injuries.  A biomechanical assessment by a Podiatrist or Physiotherapist will determine whether insoles or specific trainers would be of benefit.
Physiotherapy  -  If exercise alone does not improve symptoms then physiotherapy treatment may be required.  A physiotherapist can use specific treatments including, ultrasound, deep friction, massage, interferential, acupuncture or taping to help relieve pain and aid recovery. Click here for more information about Physiotherapy.
Injections  -  In some cases your GP or Consultant may recommend an injection.  These can be used to reduce inflammation and pain when the symptoms are severe and constant.  This is not a 'cure' and it is important to follow the exercises and modify activities.  A 'Cortisone Injection' can help reduce inflammation in the tendon, whilst a 'PRP Injection' (Platelet Rich Plasma) can help to stimulate healing.
Surgery  -  This is not common for a Sprained Ankle.  In some cases when symptoms are persistent surgery may be considered.    
Remember an important part of treatment for a Sprained Ankle is your home exercises and modifying activities.