Ankle sprain

You may have suffered a sprained ankle from landing on it awkwardly - stretching or tearing ligaments connecting the ankle bones. RICE: rest, ice, compress, elevate is your initial treatment protocol. You may need to see a doctor. Read on for information on causes, symptoms and treatment for your sprained ankle, including simple exercises.

Pierre Schydlowsky Specialist MD in rheumatology

What is a sprained ankle?

A sprained ankle is a very common injury that can occur suddenly during work, sport and everyday activities. Ligaments on the outside and inside of your ankle help keep the joint in its position. A sprain occurs when a ligament is stretched and breaks, which results in reduced stability in your ankle joint.

Causes and symptoms

An ankle sprain is caused by damage to your ligaments, which typically occurs as a result of twisting your ankle. This can happen, for example, when you accidentally step in a hole or land badly after jumping. People with poor balance tend to get sprains more easily.

Typically, you’ll feel pain in the injured joint and the surrounding muscles immediately. Bleeding and swelling will additionally often occur across the injured ligament.

Diagnosis and treatment

Limit the swelling

You can attempt to limit the swelling by adhering to the RICE principle. RICE stands for:

  • Rest
  • Ice (cool your injury)
  • Compression (put an elastic band around your ankle)
  • Elevation (keep your foot above your heart)


Begin active mobility exercises straight after suffering an ankle sprain. Later, you should rehabilitate the lack of balance in the ankle with exercises training the stabilizing muscles in your ankle region. If you don’t proactively perform these exercises, you’ll increase the likelihood of prolonged discomfort. An unstable ankle is likely to lead to further sprains that will increase in frequency over time.

Exercises for Ankle sprain

  1. Ankle tilt

    This browser does not support the video element.

    • Sit on a chair.
    • Lift one leg slightly up in the air.
    • Slowly rotate the foot so that the sole of the foot rotates outwards.
    • Then rotate the foot to make the sole of your foot point inwards.
    • Be sure to rotate as far as possible.
    • Repeat the movement 10 times in each direction with each foot.
  2. Standing knee bend I

    This browser does not support the video element.

    • Stand up with your feet on a straight line with the sick foot in front.
    • Your toes should point straight ahead.
    • Slowly move your knee past the toes so that your ankle and knee bends.
    • Move the knees forward as far as possible, so that the ankle is bent to a maximum.
    • You should feel it tightening in the back and front of the ankle, but it should not hurt.
    • Keep a relatively slow pace.
    • Perform 10 repetitions.
  3. Ankle balance on uneven surface
    60 sec.

    This browser does not support the video element.

    • Stand with both legs on a balance pad, balance board or a hard sofa pad.
    • Keep your knees slightly bent.
    • Hold your balance and see if you can move your weight back and forth from left to right.
    • Keep the balance for approximately 1 min.

Treat your pain with Injurymap

Download the app to get a customized program that addresses your specific pain with exercises.

About the author

Pierre Schydlowsky is a specialist MD and Ph.D. of rheumatology with a diploma in sports medicine. He has published multiple research papers on shoulder and ski injuries and is teaching various advanced courses in sports medicine at Danish Universities.