How severe is my ankle sprain?

Ankle sprains are common yet troublesome injuries that many people experience at some point in their lives. Whether you have recently twisted your ankle during a sports activity, a misstep on uneven ground, or any other accident, understanding the severity of your ankle injury is crucial for proper treatment and recovery.

In this blog, We’ll dive into the various degrees of ankle injuries, how to recognise them, and what steps you can take to help them heal. 

Understanding Ankle Sprains:

An ankle sprain occurs when the ligaments surrounding the ankle joint are stretched or torn, typically due to sudden twisting or rolling of the foot. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that help stabilise joints and prevent excessive movement. When they’re injured, it can lead to pain, swelling, and limited mobility.

Degrees of Ankle Sprains:

Ankle sprains are categorised into three main degrees based on the severity of the injury:

Grade 1 (mild) ankle sprain is where there is slight stretching and damage to the ligaments. You may experience slight discomfort, swelling, bruising, and tenderness around the ankle. However, you can usually bear weight and continue with daily activities with minimal disruption.

Grade 2 (moderate) ankle sprain involves a partial tear of the ligaments. This results in more significant pain, swelling, bruising, and difficulty weight bearing on the injured foot. You may notice instability in the ankle and find it challenging to walk without support. 

Grade 3 (severe) ankle sprain occurs when the ligaments are completely torn or ruptured. This can cause intense pain, severe swelling and bruising, and significant instability of the ankle. Walking or weight bearing is often too painful without assistance.

Assessing Your Ankle Sprain:

To determine the severity of your ankle sprain, consider the following factors:

  1. Pain levels: Assess the intensity of the pain you’re experiencing. Severe pain that limits your ability to move or weightbear can be indicative of a more serious injury.
  2. Swelling and bruising isn’t always but can be an indication of a more serious injury. Look for signs of swelling and bruising around the ankle.
  3. Mobility and stability: Tests your ankles mobility and stability by gently moving it in different directions. Instability or inability to bear weight suggests a more severe sprain. 

Seek medical attention:

While mild ankle sprains can often be treated at home with Protect, Optimal Load, Ice, Compress, Elevate (POLICE), moderate to severe sprains require medical intervention. If you suspect an ankle injury, getting it assessed by a medical practitioner is always a good idea. A Physiotherapist is able to assess through a thorough examination, rule out any other factors such as a fracture through referrals for x-ray, ultrasound or MRI’s, diagnose your injury and provide you with a treatment plan leaving you with the information you need to know to best understand your injury.

Recovery and Rehabilitation:

Regardless of the severity of your ankle sprain, proper rest and rehabilitation are essential for a full recovery. Your Physiotherapist may recommend the following:

  1. Immobilisation: Using a brace, splint, taping or crutches may be appropriate to help promote healing and prevent further injury.
  2. Therapeutic exercise and manual therapy: Participating in an early rehabilitation program prescribed by your Physio is important in your recovery as it focuses on strengthening the muscles around the ankle, decreasing pain, improving range of motion and restoring balance and stability. 
  3. Gradual return to activity: Gradually introducing weight bearing activities and sport specific training modalities is important in a safe and efficient return to sport and prevention of re-injury.


Understanding the severity of your ankle sprain is the first step toward effective treatment and recovery. By recognising the signs and symptoms associated with different degrees of sprains, you can make informed decisions about seeking medical care and implementing appropriate self-care measures. Remember to listen to your body, prioritise rest and rehabilitation, and seek professional guidance when needed to ensure a successful recovery and return to normal activity.

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