Ankle Sprains: ways to recover from rolling your ankle?

Ankle sprains are caused by the forceful stretching of ligaments, which are thick bands of tissue that connect bones together. Minor sprains result in more of a stretch of the ligaments, while bigger sprains cause partial or full ligament tears.

These injuries often occur when walking or running on uneven surfaces, awkward landings, falling or sports that involve cutting and turning.

The ankle is most commonly sprained when the foot is forcefully rolled inwards, causing ligaments on the outside of your ankle to stretch. The most commonly injured ligament is the Anterior Talofibular Ligament which prevents the ankle from sliding forward. With a more severe sprain, the Calcaneofibular ligament will also be injured which functions to keep the foot from rolling inward. The Posterior Talofibular Ligament is the strongest ligament and is typically only injured with severe sprains.

There are three ankle sprain grades.

Grade One Ankle Sprains result in stretching and microscopic tears in the ligaments. There is mild swelling and pain, but the ankle is still relatively stable and a person will likely be able to walk with some difficulty.

Grade Two Ankle Sprains involves a partial tear of the ligament and will also present with bruising due to damage to the soft tissue structures. Pain makes it very difficult to walk and laxity in the ligaments will be present.

Grade Three Ankle Sprains are a complete tear of the ligament. There will be significant swelling and laxity at the ankle and no weight can be put through the foot. Because the ligament is completely ruptured, there will be pain at the initial event, but little pain in the succeeding days long as weight is not placed through the ankle. Grade Three sprains may require surgical intervention, but in many cases they will try physical therapy before surgery is considered.

Initial treatment for an ankle sprains utilize the RICE method of rest, ice, compression and elevation. Your physical therapist may also use electrical stimulation or massage to reduce pain and edema.

Next it is important to regain normal motion, then begin to strengthen the muscles around the ankle and put weight through the joint. An ankle brace may be recommended to provide stability, but one will need to still allow movement to avoid further weakening ankle muscles. Recovery will typically take four-to-six weeks, but can vary due to the sprain severity.

Recurrent ankle sprains can lead to ankle instability due to the weakening of the ligaments. Your ligaments help provide control of ankle motion. If they are lax due to injury, it is imperative you optimize the efficiency of your muscle system to provide active control of ankle motion.

Ankle instability involves chronic swelling and pain, which causes muscles around the ankle joint to “turn off” and cause feeling of instability. Rehabilitation will include strengthening for joint stability. Your physical therapist may also recommend shoe inserts to improve stability at the foot and ankle. Chronic instability can lead to a greater risk of arthritis in the joint, so it is important to address these concerns early.

Article by Jenna Stones, DPT. Jenna is a physical therapist and movement specialist at CORE Strategies Physical Therapy, Sports Performance & Medical Fitness in Overland Park.  The CORE team specializes in rehabilitation and performance training for clients of all ages and activity levels. To learn more about how CORE can help you, visit  Contact Jenna at

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