Sprained Ankle Brisbane
Updated: Oct 3
Is your ankle swollen, painful, or tender to touch? Is it difficult to walk or put weight on your foot? If so, you might have sprained your ankle. Ankle sprains are very common injuries, occurring when playing sports, running, or just going about daily activities. Sprained ankles can happen just by missing a step or landing awkwardly on your foot. They can be very painful, while restricting your movement and interfering with your everyday tasks.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Our team of experienced podiatrists at Align Health Collective provides several treatment options for sprained ankles in Brisbane, Queensland. We deliver personalised treatment plans that will make your healing process faster so that you can get back on your feet, pain free.
It’s important to note that a sprained ankle can get worse and even develop into chronic ankle instability if left untreated. So, if you are experiencing any ankle pain, swelling, or a limited range of motion, you should consult a qualified healthcare professional as soon as possible.
In this article, we’ll discuss sprained ankles in detail, covering the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment options, prevention tips, common rehabilitation exercises, as well as the individualised service you’ll receive at our podiatry clinic in Indooroopilly.
Sprained Ankles: What are they and why do they happen?
Sprained ankles are caused by tearing or overstretching your ankle ligaments, with the ligaments on the outside of the ankle being affected most often. Ligaments are bands of tissue that connect and support our bones and joints. When we stretch our ankles too far inward or outward (which is what can happen when we miss a step and land awkwardly), the ankle ligaments can tear or rupture.
Ankle sprains are generally categorised according to their severity.
Mild sprains (Grade 1) often only involve torn or overstretched ligament fibres. These sprains can usually be treated with the RICE method (rest, ice, compression, and elevation). Most acute ankle sprains fall into this category.
Moderate sprains (Grade 2) occur when a part of the ankle ligament is torn. These sprains often require strengthening physical therapy exercises as well as ankle immobilisation with a compression dressing, brace, or walking boot. To keep the weight off your ankle, your podiatrist or physio may also recommend using a crutch for a few days.
Severe sprains (Grade 3) occur when the ligament is completely torn or ruptured. These sprains are incredibly painful and may need surgical repair. With or without surgery, severe sprains will also require rehabilitation and physical therapy to strengthen the ligaments and surrounding muscles.
Ankle ligaments can be injured in a variety of ways. Let’s look at some of the common causes of sprained ankles.
Sudden movements: Any movements that put your ankles in unexpected or unusual positions, or that force the ankle to roll, twist, or overstretch can tear a ligament and sprain your ankle. This often happens when you walk or run on an uneven surface (such as when trail running), or when you miss a step and your foot is forced to land in an awkward position.
Falling or tripping: As with sudden movements, falling or tripping while walking or exercising can force your ankle into an unfamiliar position, which can overstretch your ligaments.
Poor footwear: Wearing inappropriate, unsuitable, or poorly fitting shoes that do not provide enough support or stability for your ankle can increase your risk of tearing an ankle ligament.
Sports and weak muscles: Playing certain sports, such as tennis, football, or basketball, with weak muscles and ligaments can increase the likelihood of a sports injury. Ankle injuries often occur when you start a new sport, so it’s best to slowly train and develop your muscles so that they can provide the support your ankles need.
Sprained Ankle Symptoms
A sprained ankle can make completing your daily activities very painful and frustrating. If you have any of the following symptoms, you should consult a podiatrist as soon as possible. The sooner you seek medical attention, the faster you’ll heal and get back on your feet.
Ankle pain or tenderness: This pain is located in and around the ankle. Simple activities like walking or standing will often increase the intensity of the pain, as will applying pressure to the affected area.
Limited range of motion: This is often accompanied by swelling and bruising. Torn or damaged ligaments will cause tightness or stiffness in the ankle, which restricts your normal range of motion.
Popping or snapping: This can be experienced as a sensation or a sound during the injury. If you don’t hear the popping or snapping, then it might feel like something in your ankle has popped or snapped. This sensation can be caused by a damaged ligament or tendon.
When to Seek Medical Attention
Any severe, recurring, or constant symptoms of an ankle sprain will need to be checked by a qualified healthcare professional. So, if you have severe pain and/or swelling that doesn't improve with rest, ice, and elevation, it’s time to seek medical attention. Similarly, if it’s too painful for you to put weight on the affected ankle (as you would when standing), or if you are experiencing persistent numbness or tingling in the injured ankle or foot, you should consult a podiatrist as soon as you can.
Note: Some people use anti-inflammatory over-the-counter medication as an easy, at-home treatment option. However, always consult your doctor (GP) or qualified healthcare professional before taking any over-the-counter pain medication.
Sprained Ankle: Consultation and Diagnosis
Physical Exam and Medical History
Your podiatrist will conduct a comprehensive evaluation of your ankle and foot. At this stage, your podiatrist will check for swelling, bruising, tenderness, your range of motion, and your ability to bear weight on your ankle.
They will also check for other signs of ligament damage, ankle joint and cartilage damage, as well as the severity of your ankle instability. Your podiatrist will also review your medical history and previous injuries to identify and rule out any other factors that could be contributing to your current condition.
Sprained ankles can be recurrent, so it’s important to let your podiatrist know if you’ve sprained your ankle before – this will help your podiatrist diagnose and treat your injury.
Once your podiatrist has conducted a physical exam of your ankle and gone through your medical history, they will use advanced diagnostic imaging techniques to assess the exact nature and severity of your injury in more detail.
These can include an X-ray, MRI, or musculoskeletal ultrasound, which will also help your podiatrist rule out other conditions that could be causing or influencing your symptoms, such as arthritis, damaged tendons, a fracture, or ankle dislocation. Your podiatrist will then work with you to develop an individualised treatment and recovery plan.
Prevention and Tips for Recovery
Preventing a sprained ankle isn’t always possible, but there are a few things you can do to reduce your risk of injury. Remember to always consult a qualified health professional.
Footwear: Wearing appropriate footwear is a very effective way to prevent a sprained ankle. So, make sure you wear well-fitting shoes that provide support, cushioning, and stability for your feet and ankles.
Ankle taping and ankle braces: Both ankle braces and taping your ankle can provide extra support and relieve some of your pain. Speak to your podiatrist about these techniques and how you can use them to prevent recurrent ankle sprains.
Warm up and stretch: Make warming up and stretching part of your daily routine. This is especially important before engaging in any physical activity. Warming up and stretching will help you maintain your flexibility and range of motion, and will help to decrease your risk of injury.
Increase activity gradually: As with recovering from any injury or illness, take it easy. Don’t try to jump back into your previous workout routines right away, particularly if they involve running, jumping, or dancing. Remember to discuss your physical activity and exercise regime with your podiatrist so that they can recommend the best way for you to get back into it without causing any future injuries.
Follow your podiatrist’s instructions: Your podiatrist will give you very specific and personalised guidance based on your unique injury and lifestyle. These will include regular exercises as well as restrictions for activities that should be avoided. Following these recommendations for your treatment and rehabilitation is paramount to your healing process.
Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Exercises
Physiotherapy and rehabilitation exercises are an essential part of treating a sprained ankle. These exercises can help reduce pain and inflammation, improve flexibility and range of motion, and restore strength and function to the affected ankle.
Your podiatrist and/or physiotherapist will recommend specific exercises and stretches based on the severity of your injury and your individual needs and goals. Some common exercises used in rehabilitating sprained ankles include:
Range-of-motion exercises: These exercises will improve flexibility and reduce stiffness. They include exercises that move the ankle through a range of motion, such as ankle circles, ankle alphabet exercises, and ankle dorsiflexion exercises. Many patients find “drawing the alphabet” ankle exercises quite helpful – standing or lying down, use one foot at a time to draw each letter of the alphabet. If you do this standing, make sure you have a table or chair nearby to hold on to for balance and support.
Strengthening exercises: These exercises will strengthen the muscles that support the ankle joint, such as the calf muscles and the various muscles of the foot and ankle. Calf raises, step stretches, squats, lunges, and resistance band exercises can all help to rehabilitate sprained ankles.
Balance and stability exercises: Standing on one foot, single-leg balance exercises, and wobble board exercises can help to improve your balance and prevent potential ankle injuries.
Other treatments such as manual therapy, electrical stimulation, or ultrasound therapy can also help to reduce pain and inflammation and promote healing.
At Align Health Collective in Brisbane, QLD, we understand that sprained ankles can be painful and frustrating to deal with, which is why our dedicated podiatrists will provide you with the highest level of care and support throughout your consultation, diagnosis, and treatment.
We are committed to helping you achieve long-term relief from your symptoms, and we believe that this is best executed through personalised treatment plans that target each individual’s specific needs. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and take the first step towards healing.
What should you do if you sprain your ankle?
If you’re experiencing any ankle pain, try rest, ice, compression, and elevation (the RICE method). You should rest the affected ankle, ice the affected ankle and surrounding area for 10 minutes at a time, wrap (or compress) the ankle with a bandage to reduce swelling, and elevate your injured ankle above chest level. You should also book a consultation with a podiatrist as soon as possible for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.
What are the ligaments in your ankle?
There are several ligaments in the ankle that help to stabilise the joint and prevent excessive movement.
The anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL): The ATFL connects the talus bone (lower ankle) to the fibula bone (upper ankle) and helps to prevent the foot from turning inwards. This is usually the first injured ligament.
The calcaneofibular ligament (CFL): The CFL connects the calcaneus bone (heel bone) to the fibula bone and helps to prevent the foot from turning outward.
The posterior talofibular ligament (PTFL): The PTFL is located towards the back of the ankle and also connects the talus bone to the fibula. This ligament is responsible for preventing the lower ankle (talus bone) from moving in the wrong direction.
The deltoid (medial) ligament: This ligament is located on the inside of the ankle and helps to prevent the foot from turning outward too much.