Ankle Sprain

An ankle sprain occurs when the ligaments are over stretched causing ligament fibres and small blood vessels to tear.
Pain, bleeding in the tissues, and swelling are the result.

What should I do after an ankle sprain?

As soon as possible, and for 72 hours after injury, use the RICE method:


Take it easy and move only within the limit of your pain.


As soon as possible, and for 20 minutes every two hours, apply ice or a frozen gel pack wrapped in a towel. This helps to control bleeding within the tissues and the pain, and reduces secondary tissue damage.


Bandage the entire ankle and lower shin firmly. This helps to control swelling.


As much as possible, raise your ankle higher than the level of your heart to reduce swelling.

Ankle sprains, particularly lateral ligament sprains, are one of the most commonly treated injuries. You may have a swollen and bruised ankle after an incident during sport, work or everyday activities. It may be a first time sprain or it could be a recurrent injury.

What a physio can do

While most simple ankle ligament sprains seemingly improve without intervention, a physiotherapist can improve recovery. Research shows that early mobilisation and functional rehabilitation of ankle sprains results in better outcomes than if the injured ankle is immobilised or not rehabilitated at all. Physiotherapy management leads to fewer residual symptoms, improved range of motion and walking speed, earlier return to work and greater comfort, and a reduced risk of recurrence. Physiotherapy management of an acute ankle sprain involves the reduction of pain and swelling, restoration of ankle motion, muscle conditioning, and exercises to allow a successful and timely return to sport, work or everyday activities. Early treatment is the key to a good outcome in this condition. You should see a physio as soon after the injury as possible to avoid prolonging symptoms and impairment and to reduce the chances of a drawn out rehabilitation process. Rehabilitation can begin immediately. All patients can benefit from physiotherapy, not just those who are failing to progress through the natural recovery process.




Physiotherapy and you articles are provided for general information only and should in no way be considered as a substitute for the advice and information your physiotherapist will supply about your particular condition.

While every effort has been made to ensure that the information is accurate, the Australian Physiotherapy Association and the authors and the editors of the articles in this magazine and on this web site accept no responsibility and cannot guarantee the consequences if patients choose to rely upon these contents as their sole source of information about a condition and its rehabilitation.


Article reproduced with permission courtesy of the Australian Physiotherapy Association.