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How To Treat A Sprained Ankle: Causes, Types & Recovery

How To Treat A Sprained Ankle: Causes, Types & Recovery

Apria Editorial |

A frequent type of musculoskeletal injury treated in US podiatry, general care, and orthopedic clinics is the Lateral Ankle Sprain (LAS). Sprained ankles are not minor injuries and are often underestimated and neglected, resulting in delayed treatment, extended treatment costs, and long-term consequences. Every day, an estimated 30 000 ankle injuries occur in the United States, putting strain on the healthcare system, and resulting in millions of dollars in treatment.

Ankle sprains can cause significant pain, reduced movement, and impairment, all of which can contribute to depression and a poorer quality of life. Learn about the different types, treatments, prevention, and more in this complete ankle sprain guide from ApriaHome!

When To Visit Your Doctor

You'll need to relieve discomfort and reduce swelling to enable your injured ankle to recover. A mild sprain can usually be treated at home, but it's best practice to consult a health care professional for moderate or severe sprains. Your doctor will evaluate and determine if the problem requires urgent medical attention.

If you experience any of the following symptoms after an injury, get in touch with a doctor as soon as possible:

  • Severe pain, bruising or swelling
  • Bleeding, numbness, or a change in the color of the afflicted region
  • The ankle appears to be deformed or dislocated
  • The ankle can't bear any weight

    If you experience any of the following symptoms a few days after an injury, get in touch with a healthcare professional to discuss a treatment plan:

    • Severe pain that does not subside despite the use of over-the-counter medicines, elevation, and ice
    • Inability to walk
    • Pain and symptoms do not alleviate for 5 to 7 days

      Your injury may have resulted in a bone fracture if:

      • You experience extreme pain or discomfort that does not improve with treatment
      • The foot or ankle is twisted or severely swollen
      • You can't walk without experiencing severe discomfort and pain
      • Severe pain when pressing down on the two bones protruding from the sides of your ankle (medial malleolus or lateral malleolus)

        If you suspect a fracture has occurred, seek immediate medical attention.

        Sprained Ankle Symptoms

        The variety and intensity of symptoms associated with a sprained ankle vary depending on the injury. Sprained ankle symptoms may include:

        • Pain at rest as well as during weight-bearing or activity
        • Limited range of motion
        • Popping sensation or sound at the time injury occurred
        • Swelling
        • Bruising
        • Touch sensitivity
        • Ankle instability, or the sensation that the ankle is giving way or collapsing

          Causes Of Ankle Sprain

          A sprain happens when the ankle is pushed to move out of its natural position, causing one or several ligaments in the ankle to stretch, strain, or tear, partially or completely.

          Sprained ankles can be caused in several ways, including:

          • Tripping or falling on uneven surfaces, causing the ankle to twist
          • Jumping and landing incorrectly
          • Losing balance
          • Participating in sports that require quick and extended movements, e.g., basketball, football, skateboarding
          • A fall that twists the ankle
          • A collision involving the feet during a sports match or outdoor activity
          • Walking or working out on uneven terrain

            Ankle Sprain Grades

            Sprains are classified according to how much ligament damage has occurred and by varying degrees of impact. Grade I is mild, II is moderate, and III is severe.

            Grade 1 Ankle Sprain (Mild)

            Stretching or minor tearing of the ligament resulting in mild discomfort, inflammation, and stiffness. The ankle still feels stable, and walking is possible with minimum discomfort.

            Sprained ankle recovery time: Grade 1 sprains are minor sprains that generally recover in 2-3 weeks, allowing you to return to your previous activity levels.

            Grade 2 Ankle Sprain (Moderate)

            A more severe sprain with an incomplete tear, resulting in significant discomfort, inflammation, and bruising. Although the ankle seems stable, the injured portions are sensitive to touch, and walking is painful.

            Sprained ankle recovery time: Grade 2 ankle sprains involve greater ligament damage and may take up to 4-6 weeks to fully recover.

            Grade 3 Ankle Sprain (Severe)

            This is a complete tear of the afflicted ligament(s), accompanied by significant inflammation and bruising. The ankle feels unstable, and walking is usually not possible as the ankle gives way and causes extreme pain.

            Sprained ankle recovery time: Grade 3 injuries are more severe and frequently involve complete ligament tears and possible bone fractures, usually taking from 3 to 6 months to recover.

            Types Of Ankle Sprains

            Ligaments are like durable rubber bands that serve to stabilize any joint by restricting mobility. A sprain occurs when one or more ligaments are stretched beyond their usual range of motion.

            Inversion Ankle Sprains

            Ankle sprains caused by inversion occur when you rotate your foot upward and the ankle rolls inward.

            The inversion ankle sprain (lateral ankle sprain) is the most treated of all sports and athletic injuries worldwide. It accounts for around 40% of all sports injuries and 25% of all lost practice or active play.

            Repeated inversion ankle sprain injuries can place unnecessary strain on the joint, resulting in a compression or shearing lesion on the cartilage's surface, known as an osteochondral defect. If left untreated, this might lead to the formation of a crater inside the ankle joint.

            Eversion Ankle Sprain

            Also called a deltoid ligament sprain or medial ankle sprain, this is a rupture of the ankle’s inside ligaments. It is less common than an inversion ankle sprain and is typically followed by a fibula bone fracture.

            These ligaments offer support to prevent the ankle from collapsing inwards, twisting, or everting. An eversion injury occurs when the ankle rolls inward while the foot turns outward, causing a tear of the deltoid ligaments of the ankle.

            Deltoid ligament tears are uncommon. This is due to the fibula preventing the ankle from rolling inwards (everting); the medial ligaments are much more powerful than the lateral ligaments on the exterior. Consequently, hyperextension of the deltoid ligaments is extremely problematic.

            Lateral / Low Ankle Sprains, High Ankle Sprains, And Medial Ankle Sprains

            The ankle is divided into three sections: lateral, medial, and high. Sprains can occur in any of the three regions of the ankle.

            • Lateral ankle sprains: The ligaments that keep the foot from sliding inward toward the arch are injured.
            • Medial ankle sprains: They damage the ligaments that prevent the foot from rolling outward.
            • High ankle sprains: Often known as "tib/fib" sprains, they tear the ligaments that connect the two leg bones on top of the ankle. This form of ankle sprain is caused by a strong upward movement of the foot and ankle.

            There are three fundamental lateral ankle ligaments, which are anatomically more connected to the subtalar joint:

            • The anterior talofibular ligament (ATF) ‒ This is the most standard sprain.
            • Calcaneofibular ligament (CFL)
            • The posterior talofibular ligament (PTFL) ‒ This is the most difficult ligament to sprain and tear.

              Sprained Ankle Treatment - The PRICE Method

              Do you know how to fix a sprained ankle? A sprained ankle treatment plan might vary based on the injury, but the PRICE method is a handy guideline to get you started.


              First and foremost, it is vital to protect the injured tissue to prevent further damage and enable the healing process to begin quickly and effectively. There are several methods for protecting the injured region, all with the same goal of restricting further movement. Depending on the type of sprain and severity, your doctor or physical therapist will suggest a brace, splint, or boot.

              We recommend:


                Rest is an essential component of the PRICE principle in the early stages. Rest, which is sometimes overlooked, relates not only to the time the patient avoids physical activity or exercise but also to the acute period after the sprain has occurred. It is important to avoid any physical activities that may aggravate your discomfort or swelling. However, it is not advised that you eliminate all forms of activity, exercise, and movement. You must rest your foot to relieve your discomfort, but you can still exercise other muscles in your body. For example, you can engage in low-impact sports such as swimming or cycling that require arm and unaffected leg mobility.

                There are many degrees of rest depending on the severity of the injury and the kind of tissue injured. For example, if you have experienced a severe ankle sprain and cannot walk correctly, you will need complete rest.

                On the other hand, a minor sprain generally requires limited activity, i.e., no movement involving the damaged muscle, as opposed to complete rest.

                Ice Therapy

                A frequently adopted treatment intervention for acute sports injuries is ice therapy, also referred to as cold therapy or cryotherapy. It is inexpensive, easy to use, and needs little time or experience to prepare. It is critical to use an ice pack directly after the sprain, even before seeking medical attention. This must be done every 2 to 3 hours, for 10-20 minutes at a time.

                In the acute phase, applying ice to an injury will significantly reduce the degree of damage. It achieves this in a variety of ways:

                • Reduces bleeding by constricting blood vessels (called vasoconstriction)
                • Pain reduction and relief
                • Decreases muscle spasms
                • Minimizing the occurrence of cell death (or necrosis) due to a decrease in metabolic rate

                  **Consult your doctor if you have a chronic illness, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or impaired sensation, before using ice therapy.

                  For the effective alleviation of pain from sprains and strains, as well as arthritis, sore muscles, joints, and bruises, we recommend:


                    Compression can be done in many different ways. A compression bandage is the most effective and is a flexible bandage that wraps around the injured limb. The elasticity provides enough pressure to stop the bleeding as quickly as possible while simultaneously enabling your injured limb to swell slightly without any discomfort.

                    This is important because excessive compression causes further tissue damage, such as cell death (necrosis). Assessing the feeling in the tissues on each side of the bandage is an excellent way to determine if a bandage is excessively tight. When using compression on the injured ankle, watch for a pins and needles sensation or skin discoloration/coldness in the toes, which indicates that the bandage is overly restrictive.


                    This is the fifth and last component of the PRICE principle, but it is just as crucial as the previous four. Elevating the body causes gravity to drain fluid away from the damaged area and helps to reduce swelling, which may help to reduce the discomfort associated with inflammation.

                    While resting, keep your ankle elevated above your heart to promote circulation and reduce swelling. While you sleep, you can make use of pillows to raise your leg in a comfortable position on your bed or sofa.

                    NB: Elevation is especially important in the first 48 hours after injury.

                    Ankle Sprain Prevention Tips

                    Some foot and ankle injuries are completely unavoidable, such as an accidental fall or collision. However, there are precautions that individuals can take to help minimize foot and ankle injuries, particularly during sports or physical hobbies.

                    Correct Footwear: Choose footwear that is appropriate for your activity. Take special care to ensure a suitable degree of support and sole for the surface you'll be playing on.

                    NB: When the tread on sports shoes wears out or the heels wear down, replace them.

                    • Stretch Before Exercise: Include stretching in your warm-up routine to increase flexibility and range of motion. Never stretch in a manner that causes ankle, foot, or other types of discomfort.
                    • Improve Your Technique: Knowing how to jump, land, dive, pivot, and perform other actions correctly will help you avoid injury. Listen to your coach or other professionals for advice on proper body mechanics and air awareness.
                    • Improve Your Core Strength: The strength and function of your hips and torso affect your ability to perform a wide range of movements. If you lack core strength, your body is more likely to lose balance when changing direction while running or in mid-air. When speed and movement cause your body to exceed what your foot and ankle can handle, you are at a higher risk of falling and injuring your ankle. This is why it is important to focus on hip and abdominal/back strengthening as part of your routine.
                    • Improve Flexibility: It is essential to strike a balance between strength and flexibility. After a short warm-up, 30-60 seconds of stretching will help reduce stiffness and maintain optimal mobility of the lower leg. Stretching should be done carefully and gradually because ligament or joint hypermobility is associated with an increased risk of an ankle sprain.
                    • Train For The Terrain: Be cautious while moving over rough terrain or slopes with loose gravel. Although dirt terrains offer less impact than asphalt, they can present a lot of obstacles. Ensure you are adequately trained for the surfaces you perform physical activities and exercises on.
                    • Optimize Nutrition: Nutritional deficiencies, such as a lack of vitamin D, may leave bones more susceptible to stress fractures. Consult your physician about the best dietary plan for you.
                    • Wear A Brace: Wearing an appropriate ankle brace for a sprain, or a brace, strap, or ankle support, whether there is a previous injury present or not, is a proactive way to prevent injury. It strengthens the support for the area and automatically increases your bodily awareness and precaution of the protected region.

                    We recommend:

                        Heal Your Injured Foot - Treatment Supplies From ApriaHome

                        If you're an active person, the likelihood of experiencing a sprained ankle in your lifetime is high. But with proper guidance on treatment and further damage prevention, you can return to the sport or activity you love. ApriaHome facilitates ankle sprain recovery by providing top-of-the-range medical equipment from one convenient online medical supply platform.

                        Browse our range for nationwide delivery from the comfort of your own home. Looking for something specific? Our friendly experts are available on call from 8:00 am - 10:00 pm EST daily on 888-362-4112.

                        Get in touch today, and let us help you get the most out of each day.


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