Ankle Sprains and Treatment

Ankle Sprains and Treatments


Ankle sprains are common injuries that occur when ligaments are stretched or torn. The ankle sprain is the most common athletic injury. Nearly 85% of ankle sprains occur on the outside of the ankle. Sprains on the inside are less common. Many sprains happen when playing sports, or by twisting the ankle when walking on an uneven surface. Some people, due to their bone structure or foot type, are more prone to ankle sprains.

Anatomy of the Ankle Joint


The ankle joint is made up of three bones. The bones are called the tibia, fibula, and talus. These bones form a socket in which the ankle joint moves. Ligaments connect the tibia, fibula, and talus to each other. Think of ligaments as thick rubber bands that hold bones together so that joints are stable and function properly. When an ankle is sprained, a ligament is stretched, partially torn or completely torn. Muscle and tendons surround the ligaments. Blood vessels, nerves and skin cover the ligaments and tendons. The ankle joint moves the foot upward and downward. Just below the ankle joint is a ball-and-socket type joint that allows inward and outward motion.

X-rays of the ankle and foot may also be used to reveal any breaks or dislocations. Sometimes, other testing, like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), may be needed to check the damage to muscles and ligaments. Once the diagnosis is made, the appropriate treatment is prescribed.

The CPA presents its educational references as a public service and for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the opinions of the CPA membership.

Physiotherapy Can Help


The adage is better to break an ankle than sprain. This may not apply if the injury is diagnosed and treated properly.

Ankle Injury Symptoms


Ankle sprain symptoms vary depending on severity.

Often, the ankle is tender, swollen and discoloured. The ankle can be quite sore to touch. Walking may be difficult depending on the severity of the sprain. A feeling of instability may occur, especially in severe ankle sprains when ligaments are torn. Ankle sprains range from mild to moderate to severe. Classifying ankle sprains helps to diagnose the specific parts of the ankle involved in the injury. This also helps determine the right treatment plan. Type I ankle sprain, the least severe, occurs when ligaments have been stretched or slightly torn. Type II sprain occurs when some of these ligaments are completely torn. Type III, the most severe, occurs when the entire ligament is torn and there is significant instability of the ankle joint. There may be broken bones in the foot or ankle. You should see a doctor if you think you may have broken a bone.

Once healed, the rehabilitated ankle can go back to normal activities and the stress of participating in sports.

Initial treatment includes rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE). The RICE method promotes healing, decreases pain, and reduces swelling around the ankle joint. In more severe cases, non-weight-bearing activities are encouraged, and crutches may be recommended. You will usually need to keep the ankle compressed and supported using an elastic bandage, splint or brace.

The Canadian Physiotherapy Association (CPA) represents physiotherapists, physiotherapist assistants and physiotherapist students across Canada. CPA members are rehabilitation professionals dedicated to the health, mobility and fitness of Canadians.

Physiotherapists are primary health care professionals who combine their in-depth knowledge of the body and how it works with specialized hands- on clinical skills to assess, diagnose and treat symptoms of illness, injury or disability.

More than 20,000 registered physiotherapists work in Canada, in private clinics, general and rehabilitation hospitals, community health centres, residential care and assisted-living facilities, home visit agencies, workplaces, and schools. Your ability to walk or participate in other activities during the healing process depends on the severity of the sprain. Most ankle sprains heal in 3-8 weeks. In more severe cases, ligaments may need more healing time before they are stable.

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