What is it?

The most common type of ankle ligament sprain is a lateral or inversion sprain. This occurs when the foot turns inwards causing excessive rolling onto the outside of the ankle. This action can cause a strain, a partial, or a full tear of one or more of the three lateral ankle ligaments.

The anterior talo-fibular ligament (ATFL) is the most commonly injured ligament, followed by the calcaneo-fibular ligament (CFL). The posterior talo-fibular ligament (PTFL) is rarely injured.

How is it diagnosed?

There are a number of specific tests your physio will perform to test the integrity of your lateral ankle ligaments. The presence of painful touch, swelling, and bruising also help with the diagnosis of the severity of the strain and the ligaments involved. Gaining information about what exactly happened during the injury is also important in guiding diagnosis.

How is it treated?

Immediate treatment often involves ice, pain medication, and elevation to control the immediate swelling and pain. Crutches may be needed to assist with walking because of pain and instability.

Further treatment can include: soft tissue releases and dry needling to assist with any muscle spasm, swelling, and pain; mobilisations of the joint can help to increase mobility; and exercises that help to improve the strength, coordination, balance, and control of the muscles around the ankle.

In severe injuries you may be required to use crutches or wear a boot to help prevent excessive movement at the ankle, reduce weight bearing, reduce pain, and promote healing. Surgical repair is rarely needed but is an option in chronically unstable cases.

How long does it take to get better?

Minor cases may take 2-4 weeks to recover, moderate cases may range from 3-6 weeks, and more severe injuries may take 6-12 weeks to fully heal.
Your goals for healing e.g. returning to regular daily activity vs. returning to competitive sport, will also influence how long it may take for you to feel completely recovered.
If you think you may have sprained your ankle, come and see us at the clinic and we’ll help you get back on track!

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