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How To Treat A Lateral Ankle Sprain

What is a lateral ankle sprain?

A lateral ankle sprain is an injury to one or more of the ligaments on the outside of your ankle. It’s also called an inversion injury, as it involves turning your foot inward and stressing the outside ligaments of your ankle. Lateral ankle sprains are caused by a sudden change in direction or stepping on an uneven surface. This can happen during sports, work activities, or accidents. It can also occur when you trip over an object or step off the curb incorrectly.

Sprained ankle accounts for 10-25% of all sports injuries, in which 80% are lateral ankle sprains. There are major 3 lateral ankle ligaments (ATFL, CFL, PTFL), the ATFL and CFL are most commonly injured.

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Symptoms of lateral Ankle Sprain

  • Difficulty or pain while weight-bearing (standing or walking)
  • Pain or swelling around lateral ankle
  • Discolouration of the skin due to bruising
  • Limited range of movement
  • Tenderness when touching the ankle

In severe cases there could be a fracture

Clinicians use the Ottawa Ankle Rule as a guideline to see if the ankle injury is more severe and require a X-ray to rule out any fractures. The Ottawa Ankle Rules are:

  1. Bone tenderness along the distal 6 cm of the posterior edge of the tibia or tip of the medial malleolus, OR
  2. Bone tenderness along the distal 6 cm of the posterior edge of the fibula or tip of the lateral malleolus, OR
  3. An inability to bear weight both immediately and in the emergency department for four steps.

Consult with your health professional if you are unsure

Physiotherapy Treatment for lateral ankle sprain

Early stage

  • P.O.L.I.C.E. (Prevention, Optimal Loading, Ice, Compression, Elevation
  • Gentle non-weight bearing ankle movements


  • Range of motion
  • Strength: Local & global muscles
    • Local : ankle eversion with resistance band, calf raises
    • Global: gluteal and quadriceps
  • Balance
    • Reactive balance (catching a ball while standing on one leg)
  • Sports specific
    • Agility
    • Landing drills
    • Single leg hop
hopping drills after lateral ankle sprain

Other treatment methods

For appointments

Triumph Physio operates in Mount Wellington and Newmarket, Auckland. We have qualified Physiotherapist registered under ACC that can help with your ankle sprain. For more info call us on 09 526 1448 or book online by clicking on the button below


Kemler, Van de port, Backx & Niek van Dijk (2011). A systematic review on the treatment of acute ankle sprain

Wikstrom, Hubbard-Turner & Mckeon (2013). Understanding and treating lateral ankle sprains and their consequences Kobayashi & Gamanda (2014). Lateral ankle sprain and chronic ankle instability