Ankle Sprains

A side view of a foot with a hand holding the ankle. The ankle is highlighted red signifying pain

Ankle sprains are among the most common musculoskeletal injuries, both during sports and in everyday life. Despite being common, it’s crucial to take ankle sprains and their treatment seriously, as ankle sprains that are not effectively rehabilitated can lead to long-term ankle weakness and instability, increasing the risk of future ankle sprains. 

What Is An Ankle Sprain?

An ankle sprain is an injury to the ligaments that work to support and stabilise your ankle. Most often this occurs to the ligaments on the outside of your ankle during an inversion ankle sprain where the foot turns inwards, and you roll out on your ankle. This may damage the:

  • Calcaneofibular ligament
  • Anterior talofibular ligament
  • Posterior talofibular ligament

Ankle sprains can also occur to the ligaments on the inside of your ankle during an eversion ankle sprain where the foot turns outwards and the ankle rolls inwards. This may damage the deltoid ligament. Regardless of which way you sprain your ankle, the ligaments suddenly get strained past the point that they can safely handle, causing them to become damaged and painful.

Causes And Risk Factors For Ankle Sprains

You can twist your ankle during any activity where you lose your balance and roll on your ankle. Some of the most common causes and therefore risk factors that we see include:

  • Walking over uneven ground, like over rocks
  • Sports and activities that require rapid changes in direction like in tennis or basketball
  • Falling down while your foot remains planted on the ground, which can occur from losing your balance or from a collision during sports
  • Shoes - the shoes we wear become the ground we walk on, so wearing shoes that are high-heeled or unsupportive may increase your risk of instability and therefore ankle sprains.

One of the biggest risk factors for ankle sprains is a history of ankle sprains, particularly where rehabilitation has not been effectively completed to help restore the strength and function of the ankle ligaments. This means that the ankle ligaments cannot perform their role as effectively as they once could.

Other risk factors that have been studied include poor athletic conditioning, muscle and ligament reaction time and fatigue, a person’s balance, neuromuscular control and proprioception, and their position in sports.,, While early research showed that women had a higher incidence of ankle sprains than men, more recent research is showing no significant difference in incidence between men and women.

Symptoms Of An Ankle Sprain

When you roll onto your ankle during a sprain, you’ll likely feel immediate pain and discomfort. You may also experience some swelling, bruising, weakness in the ankle, and walking on the ankle may become very painful. If your ankle sprain is so severe that you experience a tear in one of the ankle ligaments, you may also feel a popping sensation during the sprain.


How to know if you have sprained your ankle

If you have recently twisted your foot and rolled onto your ankle and it is now feeling painful, weak or unstable, then there is a chance that you have sprained the ankle ligaments. If that’s the case, it’s important that you have your ankle seen and properly rehabilitated. 

Should I see a podiatrist for a sprained ankle?

Absolutely. Podiatrists are experts in the foot and ankle, having studied this area of the body extensively for at least four years. Your podiatrists will be able to diagnose your ankle sprain and its severity, assess whether any other structures have also been damaged in the process, and create a tailored treatment plan to get you back to full strength and function.

Treatment: How To Treat A Sprained Ankle

Home treatment

While you’re at home, try to avoid walking on the ankle immediately after the injury and avoid any movements that cause you pain. Usually, this painful movement will be caused by twisting your foot in the same direction as your ankle sprain occurred. To help reduce the swelling and manage your pain, you can use ice, applying it for 20 minutes three to four times per day through a towel or other covering so the ice is not in direct contact with your skin. If your pain is severe, you can use painkillers (NSAIDs) to help you manage the pain. If you have strapping tape available, you can also try strapping your ankle by following this instructional video. While you’re recovering, ensure you always wear supportive shoes that support and cup your ankle, and avoid heels, thongs or open sandals that allow your ankle to roll freely.

Podiatrist treatment for ankle sprains

As the experts in foot and ankle care, your podiatrist will work with you to create a custom treatment plan to help get you back to full strength and function. Your treatment plan will very much depend on which ligaments have been injured, whether any other structures have been injured at the same time, the severity of your injury, your activity levels and your goals. 

Here at The Feet People, our goal is to help you:

  • Live without fear of another ankle sprain
  • Feel strong, stable and confident on your feet
  • Not miss out on social engagements or events because you’re worried that your ankles may give way
  • Complete full seasons of sports without downtime due to ankle sprains
  • Gain confidence in your knowledge about what to do if ankle pain starts, from initial strapping to long-term management techniques

To help you do all of this, your treatment plan may include: 

  • Using an ankle brace or splint to temporarily offload the ankle
  • Using the Exo-Brace as a customised brace to help prevent and treat ankle sprains. The Exo-Brace is proven to prevent ankle sprains in up to 90% of cases by kicking in the moment you’re about to roll your ankle and preventing this damaging movement. It is made uniquely for your feet and ankles, and is well suited for those with repeated ankle sprains, helping prevent both chronic ankle instability and the need to have surgery as a result of recurrent sprains.
  • Footwear recommendations to help support and stabilise the ankle, limiting the painful side-to-side movement
  • Video gait analysis to best understand the demands being placed on your feet and ankles, guiding your long-term care
  • A tailored exercise program that focuses on both strengthening and gentle stretching to help the ankle ligaments as well as the joint as a whole regain strength and unrestricted function. This includes working on both balance and proprioception, which is the ability to detect where our ankle joint is and how it is moving at any point in time. Examples of balance and proprioception ankle exercises include balancing on a single leg while having your eyes closed, balancing on a wobble board or ankle disk, or balancing on a single leg while completing a task such as catching or throwing a ball.
  • Using custom made foot orthotics to adjust the biomechanics of your feet, whether that looks like creating a deeper heel cup to give your ankle greater stability every time you’re in your shoes, or help account for any other biomechanical factors that may have contributed to your ankle sprain 
  • Education on the how’s, why’s and what’s of your ankle sprain, so you can make the best decisions to protect your ankle and your foot health in the future

What Can Happen If I Ignore An Ankle Sprain?

As ankle sprains are so common, many people take the she’ll be right attitude and decide to ignore it, thinking it’ll be fine and will eventually get better on its own. While it’s likely that the pain will eventually settle, the effects of ignoring the sprain and not seeking rehabilitative care can be lifelong. 

Up to 20% of people who sprain their ankles continue to have joint stability issues after their injury, with ankle sprains being a leading cause of chronic ankle instability, a condition where your ankle is permanently weakened and less stable, which puts you at a much higher risk of recurrent sprains and other foot and ankle problems. Chronic ankle instability also increases your falls risk, which is the largest cause of disability among seniors and the leading cause of unintentional injury deaths. The injuries sustained from chronic ankle instability often mean time off and the likelihood of surgery. Here is an example of professional hockey player Trent Mitton, whose quality of life and career were being threatened by recurrent ankle sprains, discussing the impact of one of our treatment solutions - the Exo-Brace - that we prescribed for him.

Preventing Ankle Sprains

We believe that prevention is always better than cure, so when you’ve had one ankle sprain, we’ll work with you to put in all the right steps to help reduce your risk of another sprain. Proven ways to help reduce the risk of sprains includes:,

  • Ankle taping and bracing - these offer mechanical, neuromuscular and even psychological support that have proven to improve postural control, ankle stability and confidence for those affected
  • Exo-Brace - to prevent and treat ankle sprains. We are the exclusive supplier of these custom anti-sprain braces in Brisbane. 
  • Custom foot orthotics - to support and stabilise the ankle before the point of injury, thereby reducing the risk
  • Footwear - that cups the ankle and adds support and stability
  • Ankle sprain prevention programs focusing on improving dynamic ankle stability
  • Proprioceptive training, such as single limb balancing progressions, to help prevent secondary ankle sprains
  • Refining sporting techniques

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