Sprained ankle occurs when one or more ligaments in the ankle become stretched, twisted or torn. This is usually as a result of excessive force being applied to the joint. Ligaments, the tough fibrous bands that connect bones to one another, are extremely strong. Their function is to provide joints with stability and to resist excessive movement beyond the joint’s normal range.


Sprained ankle is a very common injury. It often occurs when playing sports,  changing direction or speed suddenly, as a result of falling or landing awkwardly, or after colliding with an object or person. Soon after the injury there may be swelling, but bruising may not appear for some time (it may not show at all).


Sprained ankle is classified into three categories, depending on the severity of the injury:

First degree ankle sprain:

  • Some stretching or perhaps tearing of the lateral ankle ligaments
  • Little or no joint instability
  • Mild pain
  • Little or no swelling
  • Some joint stiffness or difficulty walking or running

Second degree:

  • Some tearing of the ligament fibres
  • Moderate instability of the joint
  • Moderate to severe pain and difficulty walking
  • Swelling and stiffness in the ankle joint

Third degree:

  • Total rupture of a ligament
  • Gross instability of the joint
  • Severe pain initially followed by no pain
  • Severe swelling

Treating a sprained ankle

Minor cases of sprained ankle can usually be treated with self-care techniques, following the PRICE (protection, rest, ice, compression and elevation) protocol.

It is recommended you start moving a sprained ankle as soon as it is not too painful to do so. To relieve pain, general painkillers such as paracetamol can be used. If the pain is more severe, your GP can prescribe stronger medication.

In most cases, full use of the ankle will be regained within six to eight weeks. Severe sprains may take longer to heal and may cause persistent problems lasting several months or longer.


If you are experiencing recurring problems with sprained ankles, why not make an appointment with one of our team of Osteopaths and Physiotherapists? You can book appointments online or by calling 020 8789 3881.