You Sprained Your Ankle - What Now?

By Athlete's Care on June 07, 2019

An ankle sprain can be painful, debilitating, and make life awkward as it heals. It’s also one of the more common injuries treated by our Toronto physiotherapy and sports medicine clinics, and can result from participation in sports or an everyday accident. So, you stepped off the curb awkwardly, or you kicked that soccer ball at a bad angle, and fell, and now your ankle is swollen up like the proverbial goose egg. What now?

Ankle Sprain


In a sprain, the ligaments of the ankle have been stretched, and possible torn. Typically, you will see swelling and experience pain and soreness. While it’s a relatively minor injury most of the time, repeated or severe sprains can actually result in weakness of the joint, and joint pain that lasts long term. Proper treatment can make a big difference in healing time and efficacy.

Self Care – R.I.C.E.

What you do right away will make a difference, both in terms of healing, and pain management. Here’s what you can do at home – the R.I.C.E. method.

  • Rest – stay off the ankle and leg, and try to keep it as still as possible.
  • Ice – an ice pack can help reduce swelling and pain. If you don’t have an ice pack, a bag of frozen peas is a handy substitute. Use it for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, repeating every two or three hours. NOTE: If you have heart or circulatory issues, or diabetes, you will want to consult a physician about applying ice.
  • Compression – an elastic bandage – the kind in an ordinary first aid kit – wrapped snugly around the ankle will help to reduce and stop swelling. Don’t wrap it so tight that you compromise circulation.
  • Elevate – keep the ankle above the level of your heart to reduce swelling, particularly at night. You can use a pillow while you sleep. This will help to drain any excess fluid.

Over the counter pain medications such as ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, or acetaminophen should help with pain. The swelling and pain of a minor sprain should diminish within a couple of days.

Once You Get To The Doctor…

Unless the sprain is very minor and resolves itself within 2 or 3 days, you should seek medical help. If you can’t put weight on the foot, or it swells a great deal, then you should seek treatment beyond self care. Once you’ve gotten to your Toronto physiotherapist or other health care provider, a proper diagnosis can be made. An examination of your lower leg, ankle, and foot, will reveal the tender points, and range of motion. If the sprain is severe, and there is a suspicion of extensive damage to the ligaments, an imaging scan such as an x-ray or MRI can reveal the extent of the damage, as well as rule out a bone fracture.

The treatment plan will depend on your individual situation, including your general physical condition and other factors. The goals are: to reduce pain and swelling, and restore the ligament to normal function.

  • Rest – this is very important. You want to rest the ankle as much as you can while it heals.
  • Rehabilitate – exercises that work on range of motion can begin almost right away after injury in many cases. Ask your Toronto physiotherapist for advice, including ways to prevent further injury by both restoring and further supporting your ankle in terms of strength, range of motion, flexibility, and stability.
  • Support – you may have to use a cane or crutches for extra support so you can rest your ankle and lower leg while you heal.
  • Surgery – rarely, a severe sprain may require surgery. This is usually an option only when physical therapy and exercise have not worked to restore balance and strength. Surgery can repair ligaments that resist healing.

How long should recovery take? Each case is different. A good rule of thumb is, if you can hop on the injured ankle with no pain or instability, you are ready to go back to your sport and other usual activities.

If you have experienced an ankle sprain, or any other condition involving your musculoskeletal system, our Toronto physiotherapists and other sports medicine specialists are waiting to help. Don’t hesitate to contact one of our Toronto clinics today, or drop by to make an appointment.