Helpful resources from the Macquarie Physiotherapy Team

Ankle Sprain

Sore Neck

An ankle sprain occurs when the strong ligaments that support the ankle stretch beyond their limits and tear. 

Ankle Anatomy

Ligaments are strong, fibrous tissues that connect bones to other bones. The ligaments in the ankle help to keep the foot bones in their correct alignment and stabilise the joint.

There are two main sets of ligaments that originate from the inside (medial) and outside (lateral) of the ankle.

How Are Ankle Sprains?

Studies have found that ankle sprains are the most common among injury athletes, representing 10–30% overall. A sprain of the lateral ankle ligament complex is the most common type, particularly the anterior talofibular ligament. Further, it appears that having a previous ankle sprain increases your risk of sustaining another one.


Following this type of injury you may experience:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Tenderness to touch
  • Instability 
  • Inability to weight bear

Imaging is not often necessary, however in some cases your clinician may request the following:

  • X-ray:
    •  This will be used to rule out a broken bone in your ankle or foot
  • Ultrasound:
    • This scan will show the damage to the ligament tissue

Grades of Ankle Sprain

Your physiotherapist will be able to examine your ankle and determine the grade of your sprain to help with your rehabilitation.

Sprains are graded on how much damage has occurred to the ligaments:

  • Grade 1 Sprain (Mild):
    • Slight stretching and microscopic tearing of the ligament fibres
  • Grade 2 Sprain (Moderate):
    • Partial tearing of the ligament
  • Grade 3 Sprain (Severe):
    • Complete tear of the ligament


Following an ankle sprain your physiotherapist will use a range of treatment techniques to help: 

  • Reduce ankle swelling and pain.
  • Restore ankle range of motion, strength, and flexibility.
  • Return to activities and sport.

Treatment programs may take just 2 weeks to complete for minor sprains, or up to 6 to 12 weeks for more severe injuries.


Rehabilitation exercises help to prevent stiffness and increase ankle strength and stability after a ligament sprain. 

Here are some simple exercises to try following an ankle sprain:

  • Range of Motion: Move your ankle up and down, side to side, in circles.
  • Balance: Balance on your affected ankle and try hold your balance for 30 seconds.
  • Heel raises: Raise onto your toes 20 times.   

Want to keep your recovery going in the right direction? Head over to our Fix Your Pain page to find the right physio for you!

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