You Think You Sprained Your Ankle—Now What?


You felt your ankle roll, and then the pain. You are not alone; it is estimated that 25,000 sprains occur every day in the United States. It is one of the most common injuries among athletes.

Dr. Michael Miller of St. Elizabeth Sports Medicine says, “An ankle sprain is the most common injury to the ligaments in your ankle. By twisting or turning your ankle in an unnatural way, you have pushed those ligaments past their boundaries. The ligaments surround and connect the bones of the leg to the foot and provide you stabilization.”

When you roll or twist your ankle, they may sustain an injury to the ligaments around the ankle. Lateral (outside) ankle sprains are the most common. Ligaments are tough bands of tissue that help hold different bones together. During a sprain, one or more ligaments may stretch too far or even tear.

Some signs or symptoms that may indicate you sprained your ankle include:

  • Pain or tenderness
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Inability to put weight on the ankle
  • Stiffness

Ankle sprains can range from mild to severe, depending on how much damage there is to the ligaments. Following a mild to moderate ankle sprain, most athletes will wear a supportive ankle brace for a limited period of time as they return to their sport. Severe ankle sprains may require a short period of immobilization in a boot. Ultimately, a comprehensive ankle conditioning program is the best way to prevent future ankle injuries.

Treating an Sprained Ankle at Home

Apply ice to your injured ankle immediately to keep swelling to a minimum. It is safest to put a protective barrier over the skin, such as a moist towel, and then place a bag of ice on top of the towel. On the day of the injury, you might apply ice several times a day for 20 minutes. The R.I.C.E. protocol works well for sprained ankles, and you can talk with your doctor about using over the counter pain medication to help with the pain and swelling.

The R.I.C.E. protocol is:

  • R: Rest your ankle
  • I: Ice it to help with pain and swelling
  • C: Use compression to help reduce swelling and provide some support
  • E: Elevate your ankle above your heart to reduce swelling

Expert Treatment for Sprained Ankles

A mild sprain may take a week or 10 days to resolve, while more severe injuries may take several weeks to heal. Studies have shown that beginning an early rehabilitation exercise program is key to an earlier recovery.

Your rehabilitative exercises should be prescribed to you by a physician or physical therapist. The exercises may include range of motion, strengthening with resistance bands, balance/coordination activities and plyometric training. These will improve both short and long-term mobility and function.

If you are unfortunate enough to suffer an ankle sprain, begin R.I.C.E. treatment and call St. Elizabeth Sports Medicine at (859) 212-5600, so we can get physical therapy started right away.