People talk about treating sprained ankles all the time – but you don’t always get a clear picture of what’s actually happening when you sprain your ankle.

Today, your trusted Dianella Physio at Morley Physiotherapy Centre is here to help give you a clearer picture. Read on to find out what really happens when you sprain your ankle.


What is an ankle sprain?

Let’s start from the very beginning. What exactly is an ankle sprain?

An ankle sprain (or any type of sprain for that matter) occurs when a ligament (fibrous tissue that connects the bone to the joint) is stretched beyond its usual capacity. This overstretching effectively damages the ligament, which often causes pain and poor function. The severity of this depends on the type of strain.

Ankle sprains usually occur when your foot turns inward as you run, you turn sharply, fall or land incorrectly on your ankle.


Are there different kinds of ankle sprains?

Yes, there are a few different kinds of ankle sprains. Let’s take a look:

  • Lateral Ankle Sprain

This is the most common kind of ankle sprain and what happens when you roll your ankle inwards. It’s so common in fact, that most of you reading this would likely have had a lateral ankle sprain at least once in your life.

When you turn your ankle inwards with force, whilst playing sport, for example, the ligaments of your ankle are injured as a result.

Other ways this injury can occur is if you step off a curb in an awkward way, slipping off a step, or wearing inappropriate footwear (wedges are a common culprit).

  • High Ankle Sprain

The second most common kind of ankle sprain is the high (syndesmotic) ankle sprain.

Due to the nature of the high ankle sprain, it usually takes longer to recover from. How is it caused? By outward twisting of the foot and ankle, often whilst running, and usually seen in athletes who participate in high-intensity exercises and sports.

  • Medial Ankle Sprain

We’ve listed this one last for a reason – it’s the least common.

Why it is it so uncommon? Because the medial (inner) ligaments of the ankle form a thick and wide protective bundle over the ankle joint. This makes it strong and less likely to be subject to injury.

In the rare cases of medial ankle sprains though, this is usually caused by powerful eversion (turning the foot outward).


How do I know if I have an ankle sprain?

It can be a little tricky to know whether or not you have an ankle sprain. A good rule of thumb however, is pain and tenderness on or near the ankle. You may also feel uncomfortable standing or walking and even experience swelling or bruising. 

More than 40% of ankle sprains have the potential to cause chronic problems. So, if you think you may have sprained or twisted your ankle, it’s critical to see your local physio and get it checked out.

Don’t wait to get it checked out either – The first 72 hours after an injury are the most important.


How are ankle sprains treated?

Minor ankle sprains can be treated with ice and rest. As with many other injuries, it’s important to remember: RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation).

Severe ankle sprains, on the other hand, may require x-rays and more serious treatment.

Your physiotherapist will be able to determine the severity of your ankle sprain or injury and recommend and implement the right treatment plan for you.

In the meantime, you can find out more about the ankle pain treatment stages here.

Think you may have sprained your ankle? We recommend you stop reading this blog and call your local physio to book an appointment as soon as possible.