Sprained Ankle: Symptoms, Treatment, Recovery Time & More

What Is A Sprained Ankle?

A sprained ankle is caused by rolling, twisting, or awkwardly turning your ankle. It can cause the firm bands of tissue (ligaments) that hold your ankle bones together to stretch or tear. Ligaments aid in the stabilization of joints, preventing excessive movement. A sprained ankle occurs when the ligaments get pushed past their normal range of motion.

The majority of sprained ankles get caused by injuries to the ligaments on the outside of the ankle. The severity of the injury determines the treatment for a sprained ankle. Although self-care and over-the-counter pain medications may suffice, you may require a medical evaluation to determine how badly you’ve sprained your ankle and the appropriate treatment. Repeated ankle sprains can result in long-term complications such as chronic ankle pain, arthritis, and ongoing instability.

Today, you will learn more about sprained ankle and its symptoms, treatment, recovery time, and much more. It will give you an insight into what you need to do in case you sprain your ankle.

Sprained Ankle: Classification

The ligaments in the ankle help to keep the bones in place and the joints stable. The majority of ankle sprains occur in the lateral ligaments on the outside of the ankle. Sprains can range from minor tears in the ligament’s fibers to complete tears through the tissue. If the ligaments get torn, the ankle may become unstable after the initial injury phase has passed.

Your doctor will diagnose your ankle sprain after a thorough examination of your foot and ankle. This physical examination could be painful. Following the scan, your doctor will determine the severity of your sprain to assist in developing a treatment plan. Sprains are classified based on how much ligament damage has occurred.

1. Grade-I Sprain (Mild)
In the Grade-I sprain, you might notice slight stretching and microscopic tearing of the ligament fibers. You can encounter the possibility of mild tenderness and swell around the ankle as well.

2. Grade-II Sprain (Moderate)
In the Grade-II sprain, partial tearing of the ligament could occur. There is a slight possibility of moderate tenderness and swelling around the ankle. You might even notice an abnormal looseness of the ankle joint if and when the doctor moves the ankle in specific ways.

3. Grade-III Sprain (Severe)
In severe cases, you will find the complete tear of the ligament with significant tenderness and swelling around your ankle. You might even find substantial instability when the doctor pulls or pushes on the ankle joint in specific movements.

Sprained Ankle: Signs & Symptoms

A sprained ankle can cause pain and, along with it, other symptoms as well. However, they depend on the severity of the injury. The inflammation caused by a sprained ankle includes the following symptoms:

  • Pain, especially when you bear weight on the affected foot
  • Tenderness when you touch the ankle
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Restricted range of motion
  • Instability in the ankle
  • Redness and warmth

If the ligaments get severely torn, you may hear or feel a “pop” when the sprain occurs. The symptoms of a severe sprain are similar to those of a broken bone and necessitate immediate medical attention.

Sprained Ankle: Causes

When your ankle gets forced to relocate out of its normal position, a sprain occurs, causing one or more of the ligaments in your ankle to stretch, partially tear, or completely tear. The causes of a sprained ankle can include the following:

  • When running, stepping up or down, or doing everyday tasks like getting out of bed, you plant your foot incorrectly.
  • When you step onto an uneven surface, such as a hole, it can cause a sprained ankle.
  • When playing sports, you step on someone else. (For instance, when playing basketball, your foot may roll, could go up for a rebound, and land on top of another person’s foot.)
  • When you fall, and it causes your ankle to twist.

Sprained Ankle: Risk Factors

Some people are more prone to ankle sprains. Sprains are more common in women, children, and teenagers. You may also be at greater risk if you:

  • Participation in sports – Sports that require jumping, rolling, cutting, or twisting of the foot, such as basketball, tennis, football, soccer, and trail running, ankle sprains are common under such circumstances.
  • Surface irregularities – You can exacerbate ankle sprains by walking or running on uneven surfaces or in poor field conditions.
  • An ankle injury in the past – You’re more likely to sprain your ankle again if you’ve previously sprained it or suffered another type of ankle injury.
  • Physically, in poor shape – When participating in sports, poor ankle strength or flexibility may increase the risk of sprain.
  • Inappropriate footwear – If you wear shoes that don’t fit properly or aren’t appropriate for an activity or wear high-heeled ones in general, it can put the ankles at risk of injury.

Sprained Ankle: Complications

Failure to properly treat a sprained ankle, engaging in activities too soon after spraining your ankle, or repeatedly spraining your ankle may result in the following complications:

  • Chronic ankle pain
  • Chronic ankle joint instability
  • Arthritis in the ankle joint
  • Injury in the other ankle due to changes in your walking

If you want to avoid any complications, do not delay therapy and follow the treatment prescribed by your doctor. Moreover, remember treatment depends on the severity of your injury. Therefore, it deems essential that you follow the medication as suggested.

Sprained Ankle: Prevention Tips

Many causes can result in a sprained ankle. Therefore, if you want to prevent a sprained ankle in the future or minimize recurring pain, you can follow the below-mentioned preventive tips so you can lower the risk.

  • Warm-up before you exercise or participate in sports.
  • When walking, running, or working on an uneven surface, use caution.
  • On a weak or previously injured ankle, use an ankle support brace or tape. Wear shoes that fit well and are appropriate for your activity.
  • Wear high-heeled shoes as little as possible.
  • If you are not physically prepared, don’t participate in sports or activities.
  • Maintain a high level of muscle strength and flexibility.
  • Stability training, including balance exercises, should be practiced.

These preventive tips will allow you to tread with caution and make sure that you do not cause further injury to your sprained ankle or prevent it from recurring.

Sprained Ankle: Diagnosis

Your doctor will examine your ankle, foot, and lower leg during a physical. The doctor will examine the skin around the injury for tenderness and move your foot to assess the range of motion and determine which positions cause discomfort or pain. They’ll also make sure your Achilles tendon, which runs down the back of your ankle, isn’t torn.

If the damage is severe, your doctor may prescribe one or more of the following imaging scans to rule out a broken bone or to assess the extent of ligament damage in greater detail:

  • An X-ray is a type of radiography. A small amount of radiation is passed through your body during an X-ray to produce images of the ankle bones. This test is beneficial for excluding bone fractures.
  • MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MRIs use radio waves and a strong magnetic field to create detailed cross-sectional or 3-D images of the ankle’s soft internal structures, such as ligaments.
  • A CT scan gets performed. CT scans can reveal more information about the joint’s bones. CT scans combine X-rays from various angles to create cross-sectional or 3-D images.
  • Ultrasound is a type of imaging technology. An ultrasound creates real-time images by using sound waves. These images may aid your doctor in determining the condition of a ligament or tendon when the foot is in various positions.

Sprained Ankle: Treatment

The severity of your injury determines the treatment for a sprained ankle. The treatment goals are to reduce pain and swelling, promote ligament healing, and restore ankle function. For critical injuries, you may get referred to a musculoskeletal injury specialist. It could be an orthopedic surgeon or a physician specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation.

The treatment options include medical therapy, physical therapy, and surgery in severe cases.

Medical Therapy
Anti-inflammatory pain relievers help to reduce pain and swelling. Most people benefit from over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen and naproxen. If you have any other medical conditions or are taking any other medicines, consult your doctor first.

Physical Therapy
Rehabilitation exercises often get used to prevent stiffness, strengthen the ankle, and prevent chronic ankle problems.

  • Early movement. Your doctor or physical therapist will prescribe exercises that involve range-of-motion or controlled movements of your ankle without resistance to prevent stiffness.
  • Exercises for strength. Exercises to strengthen the muscles and tendons in the front and back of your leg and foot will be added to your treatment plan once you can bear weight without experiencing increased pain or swelling. If land-based strengthening exercises, such as toe-raising, are too painful, your physical therapist may use water exercises. They may also introduce resistance exercises if needed.
  • Exercises for endurance and agility. Other activities, such as agility drills, may be added once you are pain-free. Running in progressively smaller figures-of-8 improves agility as well as calf and ankle strength. As balance improves, the goal is to increase strength and range of motion.

Surgery: When your injury does not heal, the sprained ankle remains unstable even after physical therapy and rehabilitative exercise, your doctor may perform surgery in such rare cases. You may need surgery to repair a ligament that has failed to heal or reconstruct a ligament using tissue from another ligament or tendon.

Sprained Ankle: Recovery Time

Ankle sprains generally have good results. After a while, most patients can resume their daily activities with proper treatment. Most importantly, successful outcomes are dependent on the patient’s willingness to participate in rehabilitation exercises.

Incomplete rehabilitation is the most common cause of chronic ankle instability after a sprain. If a patient does not continue the strengthening exercises, the injured ligament(s) will weaken, putting the patient at risk for further ankle sprains.

Home Remedy For Sprained Ankle

For the first two or three days, doctors recommend the use of the R.I.C.E. method to self-care for an ankle sprain:

  • Rest. Avoid activities that cause pain, swelling, or discomfort in any form.
  • Ice. Apply an ice pack or take an ice slush bath for 15 to 20 minutes and repeat every two to three hours while awake. Before using ice, consult your doctor if you have vascular disease, diabetes, or decreased sensation.
  • Compression. Compress the ankle with an elastic bandage until the swelling disappears. Wrapping too tightly can suffocate circulation. Begin wrapping from the farthest end away from your heart.
  • Elevation. Elevate your ankle above the level of your heart to reduce swelling, especially at night. Gravity aids in the reduction of swelling by draining excess fluid.

This home remedy may help in your sprained ankle recovery process if the injury isn’t too severe. However, if you experience pain even days after treatment, consult a physical therapist for further therapy.

Should You See A Doctor For A Sprained Ankle?

For suspected sprains that do not respond to self-care strategies or cause ongoing pain or instability, make an appointment or seek emergency medical attention. If your sprain is severe, you may get referred to a sports medicine or orthopedic surgery specialist.

If you need to see a doctor, it could be due to any of the following reasons:

  • Your pain is severe or does not improve despite the use of over-the-counter medications, elevation, and ice.
  • You can’t walk, or you have excruciating pain when you do.
  • If your ankle does not feel better within 5 to 7 days, consult a doctor.

Sprained Ankle: FAQs

The majority of ankle sprains heal without incident. After two weeks, you should feel a lot better. After a year, up to one-third of people still feel some pain. Once the swelling has subsided and you can walk without pain, you should begin exercises to increase flexibility and strength. Consult your doctor first. You can also get some of the answers to the most frequently asked questions right here.

Q1. Can you run or dance with a sprained ankle?
No. Avoid running with a sprained ankle as it can aggravate the injury, causing more pain. Consult a doctor immediately if you think home remedies or self-care measures do not seem to work. Only a proper diagnosis and treatment can give you an insight into the recovery time.

Q2. How long it takes for sprained ankle to heal?
If you rest your sprained ankle, ice it every time you get a chance, use compression, and keep your ankle in an elevated position, it can take less than a week to heal. However, depending on the extent of the injury, you might need further care and treatment. It includes medical therapy and physical therapy. Therefore, avoid self-diagnosis and seek treatment from your doctor.

Q3. How to heal a sprained ankle fast?
You can use the R.I.C.E treatment method (Rest-Ice-Compress-Elevate) to care for and treat a sprained ankle in the comfort of your home. However, if you think this self-care measure does not seem to work, check with your doctor for further treatment.

Q4. How to know if the ankle is sprained or broken?
The level of pain and injury can determine if it’s a sprained or broken ankle. However, only your orthopedic can diagnose your condition. Therefore, seek treatment at the earliest if you experience excruciating pain in your ankle to ensure you receive the correct treatment.

Q5. What to do for a sprained ankle?
Using self-care measures, medical therapy, physiotherapy, or in case of severe injury – surgery – can heal a sprained ankle. Remember, only your doctor can diagnose the extent of your damage and prescribe the correct treatment method for you. Avoid self-diagnosis and treatment without consulting a doctor first.

Q6. Can walking with a sprained ankle make it worse?
Yes, walking with a sprained ankle can aggravate the injury and make the recovery process a lot harder. Therefore, if you have sprained your ankle, rest it for a few days, and avoid putting pressure on it as much as you can to aid in the healing.

Q7. How to know if a sprained ankle is healing?
If the rehabilitation process is working, your sprained ankle will begin to hurt less, and the swelling too may reduce. Furthermore, regular visits from your physiotherapist can determine how far along you are in the recovery process.


A sprained ankle can cause extreme discomfort and keep you rested for a few days. In the end, you have to ensure that, for whatever reasons, you seek the correct treatment, which aids in the recovery process without any hindrance. Depending on the severity of your injury, your doctor or orthopedic may prescribe different solutions. Make sure you follow every instruction to the T and avoid recurring incidents of a sprained ankle.

Rehabilitation of your sprained ankle requires proper physiotherapy. If you have sprained your ankle, you can avail of Aims Healthcare Physiotherapy at Home in Dubai service for a tailor-made care plan. The highly qualified, DHA-licensed physiotherapists create a customized treatment plan for you and offer support 24×7, 365 days. Therefore, if you wish to avail yourself of the Physiotherapy-at-Home services in Dubai, get in touch at +971 458 26 555 or fill out the contact form for more information.

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