Ankle sprains are incredibly common and most people will experience a sprain at some point during their lifetime. They are one of the most common sports injuries, especially those involving running or jumping. However, they can just as easily occur walking along a pavement or misplacing your foot stepping off a curb.

The most common form of ankle sprain is an ‘inversion’ injury. This is where your ankle rolls inwards, injuring the ligaments around the outside of your ankle.

Ligament injuries are classified according to their severity from a grade 1 injury, where a few fibres in the ligament are injured, to a grade 4 injury where the ligament is completely torn. Most people will experience a sprain which would be classified between grades 1 and 3. These respond well to physiotherapy treatment but while they are generally not serious, correct rehabilitation is important to prevent longstanding ankle issues.

Recovery time and best treatment for an ankle sprain

For the first 2-3 days after an ankle sprain the focus should be on controlling pain. Tissue healing can take 6-8 weeks to get fully underway, so don’t be concerned if you’re not back to normal within a week or two.

The key thing to remember in the first few days is relative rest … keep your ankle gently moving but stay off it as much as possible. If you are limping it might be helpful to use a walking aid (crutches, a walking stick or a hiking pole) for a few days.

Your ankle is likely to feel warm and swollen, this is normal and required to help your soft tissues heal. You may also experience some bruising around your ankle and this can track through the tissues into your foot. It’s important to let your inflammatory response run it’s course for the first 48 hours as this kick-starts the next stage of tissue healing. Avoid anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen or naproxen as these can delay tissue healing if taken at this stage. If you require painkillers speak to your GP or a pharmacist about paracetamol or codeine.

Sprained ankle exercises

In the first week the key exercises are gentle range of movement exercises. Although it will be painful, you need to keep your ankle moving. Do this a little every hour but do not push right through pain:

Ankle bend – in sitting, gently pull your foot up towards you then return to neutral. Repeat 5-10 times.

Ankle exercises

Ankle point – in sitting, gently point your foot away from you the return to neutral. Repeat 5-10 times.

Toes point downwards - ankle exercise

Foot turn in – in sitting, gently move your foot inwards then return to neutral. Repeat 5-10 times.

Toes point inwards - ankle exercise

Foot turn out – in sitting, gently move your foot outwards then return to neutral. Repeat 5-10 times.


Toes point outwards - ankle exercise



If you experienced significant swelling within a few minutes of injuring your ankle and you are unable to put any weight at all through your foot or ankle, it’s possible that you may have suffered a fracture as opposed to a sprain. If you go to your local A&E, an x-ray can be completed to confirm whether this has occurred.


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