I Rolled My Ankle. Now What?

So, you were playing tennis or basketball. You took a sharp turn and rolled your ankle. Don’t feel embarrassed. It happens to an odd 25,000 people every single day. What’s important is that you know how to identify a severe ankle sprain from a milder one and what you can do to help yourself get back on your feet.

What Is an Ankle Sprain?

There are two types of ankle sprains:

  1. Eversion Sprain- an inward ankle roll that affects the tendons and ligaments on the inside of your ankle. These tendons and ligaments also help support the arch of the foot.
  2. Inversion Sprain- an outward ankle roll that affects the tendons and ligaments on the outside of your ankle.

Ligaments are strong, fibrous tissues that connect the bone of your ankle to the bones of your leg. When you roll or sprain your ankle you are stretching or tearing these tissues.   

Sprained ankles are easy to spot. You will most likely feel pain right in the area where the ligament(s) has been stretched or torn. You’ll experience immediate swelling and sometimes bruising.

In more severe cases, you’ll feel and/or hear a pop(s) followed by extreme pain and the inability to put any weight on the injured limb.


Pain medications for rolled ankles are usually relegated to over-the-counter medication you can find at any pharmacy. Advil, Aleve, and Tylenol are generally enough to manage the pain.

The Common Treatment

P.R.I.C.E is a commonly used acronym to help outline the steps one should take to help heal their sprained ankle. The meaning behind each letter is detailed below.

  • Protect injured limb- keep the injured ankle still in the first moments, hours, and day of the injury
  • Rest- avoid all activities that cause more pain, swelling, and discomfort
  • Ice- Use an ice pack or ice bath for 15 to 20 minutes every two to three hours you are awake for the first 72 hours following the injury
  • Compression- Use an elastic bandage to wrap around the injured foot and ankle. The compression will help with swelling, but make sure not to wrap it too tight, or you risk cutting off circulation to the area
  • Elevation- Elevate the ankle above your heart, especially while you’re sleeping. Gravity will help drain the area of any excess fluid, which will help bring the swelling down

The P.R.I.C.E. approach is great for mild sprains. The key in the first 72 hours is to manage swelling and pain.

Therapy Following an Ankle Sprain

You’ll want to start experimenting with movement following the first 72 hours.  Studies show that gentle exercise is beneficial for recovery because it helps create blood flow that may speed up the recovery process.

Talk with your doctor or physical therapist for exercises you can do to help promote strength, balance, stability, and range of motion. Balance and stability exercises are key to a healthy recovery because these help retrain the ankle muscles to work together to support the joint, which helps prevent a sprain from reoccurring.

Some exercises you can try on your own are walking (when possible), trace the alphabet with your big toe, and stretching your calf by leaning with your hands flat against a wall and your affected leg straightened behind you. 

When Do I Call My Doctor?

If you experience severe pain and swelling after attempting self-care techniques, and/or you hear a pop when the roll occurs, we suggest you make an appointment to see your primary care physician just to make sure you haven’t torn any ligaments.

Torn ligaments may require surgery to repair them or to completely reconstruct them using surrounding tissue from a near-by ligament or tendon.

Long-Term Care

One of the key things you should avoid when healing from a sprained ankle is footwear that makes your ankle unstable. Go for a comfortable, supportive shoe with a wide toe box.  Stretching is another important factor you shouldn’t overlook. You should be stretching your ankle and leg before and after exercise, as well as casually throughout the day. Finally, just because your ankle feels better doesn’t mean you should stop trying to strengthen the joint. Continue with ankle strengthening exercises, and you should be set to get back out on the court.

The Foot & Ankle Center

Believe you’ve rolled your ankle or injured more than what you can manage at home? Request an appointment today at one of The Foot & Ankle Center’s six convenient St. Louis locations.  Our expert podiatrists are here to help you manage your pain, heal what’s been broken, and to get you feeling your best.