Sprained Ankle

Ankle sprains are one of the most common musculoskeletal injuries in the US. According to Herzog et al., there is approximately 2 million ankle sprains/year that are reported. This figure likely is an underestimation because it doesn’t account for the number of ankle sprains that aren’t reported because they didn’t require a trip to the emergency room.

This means that if you haven’t experienced an ankle sprain yourself, there’s a high probability that you know someone that has.

Depending on the severity, ankle sprains can cause a person to walk a little more slowly to missing time at work or their sport. After spraining an ankle once, the risk can be higher that it will happen again if not properly treated.

According to a study published by Rohn et al. that researched ankle sprain care in military personnel, people that did not receive physical therapy within the first month of their injury were twice as likely to reinjure their ankle when compared to people that did receive physical therapy within the first month of the initial injury.

This study demonstrates the importance of receiving early intervention for an ankle sprain.

So if an ankle sprain occurs, what should I do?

In the days of old, the acronym that was used was RICE. This meant Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. The idea was to allow time for the soft tissues to heal with an emphasis on getting rid of any swelling.

The healthcare field has learned more and evolved since these days and has moved into new acronyms for soft tissue injuries, PEACE and LOVE. For more information on this, check out my blog post PEACE, LOVE, and ANKLE SPRAINS.

The newer model emphasizes a more active approach to recovery and focuses on managing swelling, not eliminating it.

The newer model also does not advocate for complete rest. In fact, completely resting an injury often leads to a host of other problems that need to be dealt with after the injury has healed, not the least of which being increased risk for re-injury.

For the best outcomes, faster return to sport/activity, and significantly less risk of injury reoccurrence, early and formal intervention with a physical therapist (often for a short episode of care) has shown to be highly effective.

Three simple things to get you started:

Ankle Pumps: Moving at your ankle, you can pull your toes up toward your nose then push down like pressing on a gas peddle. Moving slowly through a range of motion that doesn’t make your pain worse, you can help get the joint and fluid moving.

Ankle circles: Moving again with your ankle, draw circles with your big toe. Try do make as large of circles as possible with your ankle without making pain much worse. If you can, try doing several clockwise then an equal number counter-clockwise.

Elevate your ankle: Try a couple times a day to elevate your ankle above the level of your heart for 10-20 minutes. This will help to manage the swelling accumulating in your ankle and can help keep some pain down.

Ankle sprains are extremely common in the US. If you or someone you know are dealing with foot and ankle pain and would like more information we’d love to chat!

Contact Switchback Direct Physical Therapy today at 208-557-1470


Herzog MM, Kerr ZY, Marshall SW, Wikstrom EA. Epidemiology of Ankle Sprains and Chronic Ankle Instability. J Athl Train. 2019 Jun;54(6):603-610. doi: 10.4085/1062-6050-447-17. Epub 2019 May 28. PMID: 31135209; PMCID: PMC6602402.

Rohn DJ, Fraser JJ, Sorensen J, Greenlee TA, Jain T, Cook C. Delayed Rehabilitation Is Associated With Recurrence and Higher Medical Care Use After Ankle Sprain Injuries in the United States Military Health System. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy. 2021 Nov; 51 (12): 619-627)


Dr. Tyler Burke

DPT, Owner and Founder of Switchback Direct PT

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