Sprained ankle: what to do?

Almost everyone sprains their ankle at some point. It hurts and walking on it is difficult or sometimes temporarily impossible. The ligaments are strained and sometimes even torn. The ankle becomes thick and sometimes turns blue. Once you’ve sprained your ankle, there’s a chance it could happen again. This is especially seen if too little time is taken for the ankle to recover. What is the best way to deal with a sprained ankle?

Sprained or sprained

Most people know it. A misstep or unexpected movement can cause your ankle to go through, causing the foot to fold inward or outward. Usually your foot folds inward and you sprain the outer ankle ligaments. If you sprain the ankle, the damage is usually limited. With a sprained ankle there is no injury to the ligaments. The ankle hurts for a few days, may be somewhat swollen, and then it usually recovers completely. If ligaments are stretched or perhaps torn, we call it a sprain. This is more painful than a sprain and you can no longer use your ankle optimally. It takes more time to recover from this.


When you sprain an ankle, you feel severe pain. Usually you cannot walk on it directly and it hurts if you lean on it. You often see swelling develop soon after the sprain due to the damage in the tissue. Blood vessels can burst, causing a bruise on the ankle. It is important that you get enough rest to allow the ankle to heal. If your ankle has not yet recovered sufficiently, there is a greater chance that you will go through it again. Avid athletes in particular want to put weight on their ankle again as quickly as possible.

What can you do?

It is better to limit swelling as much as possible. To give your ankle some rest, you should stand on it as little as possible. After the sprain, cool it for at least fifteen minutes. You can use a cold pack or a washcloth with ice in it for this. If necessary, grab a bag of frozen vegetables from the freezer. Never place the ice directly on bare skin. After cooling, you can apply a pressure bandage to prevent swelling. Afterwards it is best to keep the ankle elevated. Try to maintain this as much as possible for the first 2 days and let the ankle hang down as little as possible. It is good to move your ankle every now and then and try to turn around a bit. This ensures that the swelling disappears more quickly and that the ankle becomes less stiff. If all goes well, the swelling will gradually subside after a few days.

Severe sprain

If you cannot walk on it after cooling or if you continue to have significant pain, it is advisable to see a doctor. If there is a severe sprain, there is more damage in the ankle. The ankle ligaments and/or joint capsule need more time to heal. You need to get more rest and it can take up to six weeks before there is any improvement. Sometimes it is decided in consultation with an orthopedist to apply a bandage of tape, a brace or plaster. In some cases it is decided to repair the damage surgically. This sometimes happens to intensive athletes or if the ankle sprains again and again.


In addition to rest, it is also important that you do exercises to restore flexibility, coordination, mobility and strength. These exercises can start shortly after the sprain, even if you have a cast on the ankle. This is usually done in consultation with a physiotherapist. You can then carefully resume your daily activities and, when that is possible, you can start exercising again. Even after recovery, it is important that you do your exercises properly to prevent recurrence of a sprain. Athletes can still use a brace or tape during sports for a while. You can usually walk normally again within 2 weeks and almost everyone can exercise again after 8 to 12 weeks.


To prevent a sprain or recurrence, you can take a number of measures. It is important to wear good shoes that provide sufficient support for your ankles. Make sure your lower leg muscles are in good shape. If you play contact sports such as football, you can wear tape or a brace. Only do this during competitions, otherwise it will be at the expense of the strength of your ankle. Listen carefully to your body. If you are tired or feel pain in your ankle, take it easy.