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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Sprained ankle

Whatīanga raparapa takoki

sprained ankle joggingSprained ankles are common injuries that usually happen after you've twisted or rolled your ankle. This can stretch or tear the ligaments, which are the strong bands of tissue that hold the bones in your ankle and foot in position.

A sprained ankle can cause pain, swelling, tenderness and bruising. It might be difficult to move your ankle in all directions. If the sprain is severe, you might not be able to walk.

For bad sprains, it's best to see a doctor or physiotherapist as soon as possible, as getting the right treatment straight away may mean you recover more quickly. You should see them if you have difficulty walking or putting any weight on your ankle. You should also see a doctor or physiotherapist if your ankle is deformed or giving way or if you're worried. You may need an X-ray to check you do not have a broken ankle.

Self‑care for a sprained ankle

There are things you can do yourself to help your ankle heal. Acting quickly helps to reduce the swelling (and inflammation) and keep you moving as freely as possible. Get started as soon as possible on what is called RICE treatment. (RICE stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation). You may need crutches or splints to rest your ankle.

In the first 72 hours, remember what NOT to do as HARM – Heat, alcohol, run (exercise), massage.

Pain relief such as paracetamol or ibuprofen can help to make you more comfortable, although it doesn't seem to change how quickly you heal. Talk to your pharmacist if you aren't sure what you can take safely.

As the swelling starts to come down, do some regular exercises to help keep your ankle mobile. It can stiffen up if you do not exercise it. Download this factsheet from ACC describing exercises that will help. You may need time off work depending how severe the sprain is and what job you do.

A physiotherapist can help with your rehabilitation by giving you specific exercises and mobilisations to restore your movement and strength. Your physiotherapist will also help you return to your normal activities.

A podiatrist may be able to provide orthotics or an ankle brace to help stabilise your foot and ankle during your recovery.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed May 2022.


Page reference: 280803

Review key: HIAAF-225274