Treating a Sprained Ankle – Ask a Chiro


How to Treat a Sprained Ankle

A sprained ankle is a common type of sports injury that can occur just as easily in everyday life as it can on the sports field. An ankle sprain occurs the moment there’s an unnatural twisting or rolling of the ankle joint which causes your ankle ligaments to overextend, resulting in tissue injury and pain to the affected foot. If you suspect that you or a friend may have a sprained ankle, you’ve come to the right place to identify what to do next.

What Causes a Sprained Ankle?

An ankle sprain occurs when your ankle is forced out of its normal position, typically when you step on an uneven surface or land awkwardly on your foot after jumping. The most common type of ankle sprain is an inversion injury where the foot is unnaturally rotated inward, injuring one or more of the ankle ligaments: the Anterior Talofibular Ligament (ATFL), the Calcaneofibular Ligament (CFL), and the Posterior Talofibular Ligament (PFL). In all instances of an ankle sprain, the sudden or unnatural force to your ankle joint causes the ligaments to stretch or even tear, and it’s the ankle ligaments that may require medical attention.

Symptoms of a Sprained Ankle:

The primary symptoms of a sprained ankle are:

  • A popping sound or sensation at the time of injury and at the location of impact
  • Inflammation, swelling, redness and warmth around the injured ankle
  • Pain, tenderness, and inability to bear weight on the ankle
  • limited ankle function and range of motion

What to do if you have a Sprained Ankle:

In the first moments after spraining an ankle, it’s important to remove all weight from the foot and ankle, and to apply the RICE principle (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation). Considering that there is insufficient evidence for RICE to fully treat your ankle sprain, and that you won’t know the extent of the damage just by looking at your foot, you may need to seek medical advice from a medical professional if you feel severe pain while walking or putting pressure on the foot.

If you are in severe pain, you should consider an ankle brace or ankle splint, or even the use of crutches to immobilize the ankle’s range of motion. This will help to avoid placing weight on the foot and to prevent further injury. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen and naproxen are usually sufficient to manage the pain of a sprained ankle, while you make your way to a doctor.

A doctor will conduct a physical exam, inspecting the skin around the injury for tenderness and to check your ankle’s range of motion to identify angles and positions that cause discomfort. If your injury is severe, your doctor will try to rule out fractured bones, broken bones, and other more serious injuries through Imaging tests that may include x-rays, MRIs, CT scans, and ultrasounds.

Ultimately your ankle sprain will be graded according to how severe it is:

– Mild (Grade 1) is a light or mild sprain where your ligaments are stretched but not torn. You have full stability of the ankle joint and only minor damage to the ligaments in the injured area.

– Moderate (Grade 2) is a moderate sprain where one or more ligaments have been stretched to the point they are partially torn. You have slight instability of the ankle joint with swelling and moderate ankle pain, and it will be difficult to stand on your foot.

– Severe (Grade 3) is when one or more ligaments are totally torn, and your ankle is unstable. You are in severe pain and not able to move your injured ankle.

Can I Treat a Sprained Ankle at Home?

Mild and moderate ankle sprains usually don’t need surgery and can be treated at home by:

  • applying the RICE principle (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) for the first 3 to 5 days
  • applying ice to the affected ankle to help reduce swelling and inflammation
  • applying heat to the affected area after the swelling has stopped
  • stretching and massaging the ankle lightly to keep the muscles strong and increase blood flow
  • walking short distances and gradually increasing to longer distances as the ankle begins to heal
  • strengthening exercises and physical therapy

Chiropractic care for a Sprained Ankle?

Chiropractic care is a non-invasive approach to rehabilitation that may include gentle joint and soft tissue procedures, electro-physical therapy, dry needling, rehabilitation exercises, and a dietary prescription to help reduce your pain and speed up your recovery time. As a qualified chiropractor specializing in Sports Chiropractic, Dr Matt le Roux can help you improve the mobility and range of motion of your ankle. If your ankle is not healing correctly, or you feel you need extra support in your recovery, book an appointment today.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What helps heal a sprained ankle?

Ankle sprains occur when one or more ligaments in the ankle are stretched too far, injured, or torn. You should start with first aid the moment you suspect you may have sprained your ankle. Avoid putting any weight on the ankle and follow the RICE principle (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) for the first 3 to 5 days.

Can you heal a sprained ankle in 2 days?

Ankle sprains are common injuries that can occur from everyday activities and sports. While a person can recover soon after ligaments were only lightly stretched, if your ankle sprain symptoms last for more than 2 days you should consult your doctor.

Does ice help heal a sprained ankle?

Ice is considered among the best treatments for a sprained ankle as it helps to reduce swelling, redness, and pain, and may even prevent inflammation if applied quickly after the ankle injury. Wrap the ice or ice pack in a towel before applying it to your skin.

Does heat help heal a sprained ankle?

Ice should be used in the initial stages after an ankle injury to minimize swelling and inflammation. Applying heat too early may aggravate swelling as it increases blood flow to the injury. Keep applying ice for 2 to 3 days, and only then introduce heat to help increase blood flow and assist your body’s natural healing.

Does walking help heal a sprained ankle?

You should avoid putting any weight on your sprained ankle and follow the RICE principle for the first 3 to 5 days after your injury. If your pain does not go away, or you feel severe pain when you walk, you should avoid walking until you see a doctor who will be able to diagnose your injury.

Can you treat a sprained ankle at home?

There are many ways for you to help speed up the recovery of a sprained ankle at home. For the first 3 to 5 days, you should apply the RICE principle (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation). If the sprain is not getting better within 5 to 7 days, or you have severe pain when you walk, you should consult your doctor.

What bones are in the ankle joint?

– Tibia: the major bone of the lower leg, connecting to the inside ankle joint

– Fibula: the smaller bone of the lower leg, connecting to the outside ankle joint

– Talus: the small bone that connects your foot to the tibia and fibula, and the bottom part of the ankle joint


Medical News Today


Sports Medicine Oregon


eMedicine health

American Academy of Family Physicians

Melanson, SW; Shuman, VL: 2021. Acute Ankle Sprain | National Center for Biotechnology Information

Aspetar Sports Medicine Journal

Dr. Matt le Roux is a man of many talents: chiropractor, sports scientist and functional medicine practitioner. His science-based approach motivates him to explore the synergy between health and performance that changes the way you move, live, train, think, and eat.

Dr Matt le Roux

Chiropractor, Functional medicine practitioner

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