The ankle is the joint between the foot and leg, composed of three separate bones. The inner bone is the tibia, or shinbone, which supports most of a person’s weight when standing. The outer bone is the fibula, or calf bone. The tibia and fibula are joined to the talus, or ankle bone, which is one of the major tarsal bones (bones at the back of the foot) and is located underneath the other two. This joint allows humans to walk, run, jump, and perform a variety of other actions. It permits movement and contributes to lower limb stability.

What is a sprained ankle?

It often happens when you don’t pay attention. You overlook a threshold, you end up unhappy after a fall or you land incorrectly after a jump during exercise. Suddenly your foot tilts too far in or out. You have a sprained ankle. We speak of a sprained ankle when the ankle straps are stretched or partially ruptured.

Your ankle is reinforced with a joint capsule, tendons, anklets and muscles. They run along the inside and outside of the joint. Sprains usually involve the bands on the outside of the ankle.

The symptoms of a sprained ankle

If you have a sprained ankle, standing and walking are painful. Your ankle can become swollen and blue because blood vessels have broken. People with a sprained ankle can walk, most of the time, again after one to two weeks. When your ankle feels unstable and remains painful you can develop a chronic ankle injury. You have the feeling that you can sprain your ankle again at any moment. This fear increases the chance of a new injury. With a long-term injury, your strength diminishes and your stamina sometimes diminishes over time.

Treatment of a sprained ankle

With a slight to moderate sprain of the ankle, treatment consists mainly of pain relief and worsening of the swelling. You are usually advised to wear a bandage or elastic stocking.

With a heavier sprain you only need more support. Think of tape, a brace or a splint. To rule out a bone fracture, you may need to have an X-ray or a scan made. If you only have a severe sprain, plaster casts are sometimes applied (for a short time). After that you get a few weeks of tape. In exceptional cases, a sprained ankle must be operated on.

What you can do yourself

Start cooling as quickly as possible, preferably with the shoe on. Hold the injured ankle for 15 to 20 minutes under cold running water. You can also cool with ice. Make sure you do not apply the ice directly to the skin, but in a washcloth or towel. This way you prevent the skin from freezing. Repeat cooling four or five times. After that, can’t you still lean on the injured ankle or has your ankle become swollen and painful? Then go to your doctor or your physiotherapist.

In that case the advice is:

  • Walk as little as possible until the worst swelling is gone.
  • Only move regularly, for example by turning circles with your toes or foot. This promotes blood flow, prevents stiffness and (further) swelling.
  • Place your foot as high as possible in the first days after the sprain.

How can you prevent yourself from spraining again?

  • Wear shoes that fit well.
  • Train your lower leg muscles.
  • Do not exercise immediately. With a sprained ankle it is better to wait two to three weeks with that.
  • When you start exercising again, wear (depending on the type of sport) a while or bandage or a brace to protect your ankle.

What physiotherapy can do

Treatment and supervision by a physiotherapist are required if you:

  • keep having complaints;
  • cannot sprained the sprained person over time as in the past;
  • have chronic complaints.

Our physiotherapist first examines the nature and severity of your symptoms and then discusses the expected recovery with you. During this recovery you will receive guidance and information, advice and exercises. This guidance is tailored to your personal situation. For example, if you cannot burden yourself the way you would like, the physiotherapist can prepare a customized treatment and training program. Together with your physiotherapist you also determine the moment when you can exercise again.

In the case of chronic ankle complaints you actually go the same way with your physiotherapist. You make an inventory of your complaints together. Then your physiotherapist will guide you through the recovery with a treatment and training program tailored to your personal situation.

[AMC treatment – link to]