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Managing Your Sprained Ankle

A sprain is defined as a stretch, shear or tear of the ligament. 

The most common type of sprained ankle is an inversion sprain. This means your foot rolls inward and the lateral (or side) of your foot gets stretched. 


There are three different grades of ankle sprains: 
  • First Degree-a stretch or minor tear of the ligament, accompanied by mild swelling, bruising and tenderness. Minor pain with walking
  • Second Degree-an incomplete tear of the ligament accompanied by moderate swelling, bruising and tenderness. Walking is painful.
  • Third Degree-complete tear or rupture of the ligament accompanied by severe swelling, bruising and tenderness. Walking is very difficult if not impossible because the ankle is unstable. 



                                                        Close up of woman touching her injured foot on white background


Grade 2 and Grade 3

How your physical therapist treats your ankle (and how you manage it at home) is largely dependent on the grade and how far along in your recovery you already are. Second and third degree sprains are going to be immobilized in an air cast or walking boot for a period of time dictated by your doctor. Third degree sprains are going to take longer to heal. Once cleared to be out of the cast or boot, you'll go through range of motion exercises and stretching, and gentle isometric exercises at first. 

Grade 1

Managing your grade 1 sprain is very doable. Bracing and casting is not recommended, but instead full range of motion exercises. Gentle isometric exercises initially to build up strength and promote healing. Your physical therapist will guide you in the best ones for your injury. 

RICE isn't just for eating

Don't forget the good ol' RICE: Rest, ice, compression and elevation in the first 48-72 hours after an injury. To be clear, bracing and compression serve different purposes. The brace provides stability and limits range of motion where as an ace bandage for compression helps with swelling. Elevate the ankle ABOVE the heart, not just at heart level to reduce swelling. That means propping that foot up on several pillows. 

                                    Man having leg massage in medical office

Your physical therapist will help tailor your recovery to your specific injury however your body will also help guide you. Don't forget to listen to it. 

If you sustained an ankle injury, contact our physical therapy office today!