Todd Kuslikis

Todd Kuslikis

MMT, MPA
Knee Pain Specialist and Injury Prevention Expert

How to Care for a Sprained Ankle: Easy Home Remedies & Exercises

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

Something many of us have in common is the very annoying experience of rolling your ankle knows as Sprained Ankle. You’d think rolling your ankle would be harder to do since we spend so much time walking, standing, and using our ankles every day! If it makes you feel better, remember even Achilles the great Greek warrior was taken out due to an ankle injury.

How do We Sprain an Ankle?

Achilles’ ankle injury may have been in in the Trojan war, but you more likely have experienced an ankle sprain because of:

Ankle Sprain Picture
  • Tripping on an uneven surface.
  • Slipping on ice, water on the floor, or on any slippery surface.
  • Landing wrong after a jump or stepping down.
  • Rolling the ankle due to an uneven surface, hole, or stepping off a curb poorly.

When you roll your ankle there is a sudden force put the joint that can cause pulling and even tearing of ligaments in your ankle. Ligaments are a fibrous material that connects one bone to another.

So the pain you feel after rolling your ankle is most likely coming from a ligament injury; however, when in doubt don’t hesitate to reach out to your Primary Care Physician if you think you broke a bone.

The most common version of an ankle sprain is an inversion sprain, which is when your foot rolls in. You’ll notice pain on the outside of your ankle after this type of sprain.

While less common, you could also experience an eversion sprain, which is when your foot rolls out. You’ll notice pain on the inside of your ankle after this type of sprain.

Unfortunately, when you roll your ankle it’s also easy to tear those ligaments. Therefore, if you’ve rolled your ankle once, you’ve most likely rolled it many times. This is called chronic ankle instability and many of us have this!

What does a Rolled Ankle Feel Like?

ankle pain when walking

In general, when you roll your ankle you may feel sudden pain in the joint and may even hear a pop. Soon after a sprain you’ll typically notice swelling and bruising on your ankle.

Usually pain, swelling, and bruising occurs on the outside of your ankle because inversion sprains are more common.

There are different sprain ankle grades which will affect your symptoms:

First Degree:

Ligaments are stretched but not torn. You’ll feel mild pain and experience some swelling and stiffness in the joint.

Second Degree:

Ligaments are partially torn. You’ll feel moderate pain, notice swelling, bruising, stiffness, and will feel pain with walking.

Third Degree:

Ligaments have been torn completely. You will experience significant pain, swelling, and bruising. You’ll also feel a greater loss of motion in the ankle as well as an increase in a sense of instability.

Treatment Right After an Ankle Sprain

You may have heard the acronym RICE before. Right after a sprain you want to use the RICE method:

Rest for 24-48 hours.

Ice your ankle over 24-48 hours. Remember, only use ice for a maximum of 20 minutes at a time then give your skin a break. You can ice again later but it’s important to let your skin breathe after.

Compression sleeves or wrapping can help reduce swelling. Just make sure the compression isn’t too tight and cuts off circulation. If you feel like your toes are tingling or are turning purple that’s a sign the compression is too tight.

Elevate your ankle so that it’s above the heart to reduce swelling.

If swelling and pain doesn’t improve at all after performing RICE for 24-48 hours contact your Primary Care Physician. Remember, there’s the possibility that your ligaments are torn and you could have broken a bone in your foot.

Your Primary Care Physician may recommend x-rays, an MRI, or using a boot based on your symptoms and history with ankle sprains.

Exercises for an Ankle Sprain

If the swelling and pain has improved in your ankle or you’ve been cleared by your Primary Care Physician, then you can start to perform some ankle exercises.

Remember with all of these, listen to your body. You may feel some stiffness and some discomfort, but if you feel increased pain levels or sharp pain reach out to your Primary Care Physician to learn safe ways to progress exercise with your ankle injury.

Remember, not all ankle injuries are equal, and these are general exercises to try. When in doubt, your Primary Care Physician or a Physical Therapist can tailor exercise to your specific injury.

Range of Motion Exercises

Ankle Dorsiflexion
Ankle Plantarflexion

Something gentle to start out with is ankle pumps. Start by sitting on your bed with your heel off the edge. Then flex and extend your ankle 20 times.

This will help with range of motion and getting some of that fluid in your ankle moving again. You can repeat this throughout the day depending on how your ankle feels.

Stretches for Ankle Pain

Your ankle has been moving less so your calf muscles are likely to have stiffened up. You can stretch your calf by standing on the bottom step of your house and holding on to the railing.

Calf Stretch for Sprained Ankle

Allow the heel of the injured ankle to hang over the side of the step and gently drop the ankle down till you feel a pull in your calf (the back of your lower leg.)

Hold for 30 seconds if you can, and remember you don’t have to shift all of your weight over to the injured leg.

If you feel pain shift less weight into the injured leg and use your uninjured leg for more support.

Strengthening Exercises

Again, only perform these if you’re cleared by your Primary Care Physician or your symptoms have improved so that there is only minimal discomfort when performing the exercises:

Ankle Plantarflexion with a Resistance Band (can be done without a band!)

Ankle Plantarflexion Advance
  • Lay down on your bed with your ankle off the end.
  • Loop the band around your right foot and hold onto the other end of the band with your hands.
  • Point your toes and squeeze the back of your calf muscles, then relax. Finish the set, then repeat with your left foot.

Ankle Dorsiflexion with a Resistance Band (can be done without a band!)

Ankle Dorsiflexion Advance
  • Lay down on your bed with your ankle off the end.
  • Loop the band around your right foot and loop the band around your left foot.
  • Point your left foot and hold that position.
  • Draw your right foot up like you’re trying to bring your toes to your nose, then relax. Finish the set, then repeat with your left foot.

Ankle Eversion with a Resistance Band (can be done without a band!)

Ankle Eversion Advance
  • Lay down on your bed with your ankle off the end.
  • Loop the band around your right foot and around your left as seen in the graphic. We’re going to use your left foot as an anchor for your right foot as your exercise.
  • Bring your right foot out like you’re angling your ankle away from your left foot, squeeze in then relax.
Tip:

Work on just moving your ankle and not your entire leg when performing this exercise! See if your knee rolls out at all, try to keep it still.

Ankle Inversion with a Resistance Band (can be done without a band!)

Ankle Inversion Advance
  • Sit near a heavy table or sturdy chair that won’t move easily.
  • Loop the resistance band over your foot and around the table or chair leg as shown in the graphic above.
  • Bring your foot in like you’re angling your ankle toward your other foot, squeeze in then relax.
Tip:

Work on just moving your ankle and not your entire leg when performing this exercise! See if your knee rolls out at all, try to keep it still.

Balance and Control for Sprained Ankle

If you feel confident in your ankle you can start to perform some balance exercises for sprained ankle.

Single Leg Balance
  • Start by standing next to your counter and holding on with both hands.
  • Lift your uninjured foot leg so that you’re just standing on the injured leg. Start off slow and hold this position for 15 seconds with both hands still on the counter.
  • If you feel in full control and safe, then you can start to hold for 15 seconds with less hand support. For example, hold with just two fingers on each hand, hold with only one hand, or even just hovering your hands over the counter.

Remember to listen to your body and only progress balance if you feel confident in your ankle’s health and feel safe balancing.

Final Thoughts

Ankle sprains are the worst, but if you keep up with stretching, strengthening, and careful balance exercises you can help limit your risk of future rolled ankle.

Don’t be like Achilles and leg an ankle injury take you down. You’ve got this, take your time, and comment below which exercise you liked best!

FAQ’s:

Can Walking on a Sprained Ankle Make it Worse?

This depends on the degree of your ankle injury. In general, remember RICE and try resting for 24-48 hours to allow for healing. If you can walk with minimal pain, then it’s ok to start walking short distances again.

Gradually build up the time you spend walking and make sure you can walk without pain before starting with jogging or running. Remember, if you feel significant pain reach out to your Primary Care Physician.

When to Worry about Sprained Ankle?

If you have significant pain, bruising, swelling, and feeling of instability in the joint reach out. Additionally, if you feel like your symptoms aren’t improving or you can’t tolerate walking reach out to your Primary Care Physician.

How to Heal a Sprained Ankle Overnight?

That would be wonderful, but unfortunately there’s no secret way to heal an ankle sprain overnight. Try out RICE right after the sprain though to help with pain and recovery in the first 24-48 hours. 

How Long Does a Sprained Ankle Stay Swollen?

This totally depends on the degree of your sprain and your history of ankle sprains. We all heal differently, but if you still have significant swelling after 48 hours reach out to your Primary Care Physician.

How Long will a Sprained Ankle Take to Recover?

Once again, this totally depends on the degree of your sprain and your history of ankle sprains. We all heal differently, but if you still have significant swelling and pain and you can’t tolerate even gentle exercises after a few days reach out to your Primary Care Physician.

More to Explore

Get Strong, Healthy, Pain-Free Joints Click Below to View Products

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.