Patient Information

Ankle sprain


A sprained ankle is caused by you turning, twisting or rolling your ankle beyond its normal movement. The ankle ligaments, which usually hold the ankle bones in place, get injured.

A sprain may also be called a soft tissue injury.


Healing usually takes around 6 weeks.

Pain and swelling

Your ankle may be swollen and painful.
Swelling is often worse at the end of the day. Resting with your foot up, and using ice or cold packs, will help (see Caring for your injury, below). You can also take pain killers. Mild pain and swelling is normal for 3 to 6 months after your injury.

Speak to your GP or pharmacist for advice on what medicines to take for the pain.

Walking and your boot

You may be given a boot to wear. This protects your ankle and will make you more comfortable. Wear the boot when you are standing and walking for the first 2 weeks. You can put weight through your foot. You may find it easier to use crutches in the early stages.
You can take the boot off at night or when resting.

Tell us if you have diabetes. You may need a special boot.


Start exercise as soon as possible. See Exercises (below) for details.

Stop smoking

Reducing or stopping smoking will help recovery.

For help, talk to your GP or pharmacist, or go to www.smokefree.nhs.uk for more information.


We do not usually book to see patients again. With this injury, most people recover well by following the instructions we give here.

Contact the Trauma Triage Clinic team (details at the bottom of this leaflet):

if you are still using the boot after 6 weeks

if you still have significant pain or swelling after 12 weeks

if you are concerned about your symptoms

if you are unable to follow the instructions given below

if you have pain other than in your ankle.

Caring for your injury: week 1 to 2

Rest your ankle, especially in the first 3 days. Raise your ankle on a stool or cushions so that it is above the level of your hip. This will help reduce the swelling.

Wear your boot whenever standing and walking for the first 2 weeks. You can take it off when resting and at night. Wear a long sock in your boot.

Use a cold pack to help with pain and swelling. You can use an ice pack or bag of frozen peas wrapped in a damp towel. Put this on your ankle for up to 15 minutes every few hours. Make sure the ice is not in direct contact with your skin.


Early movement of the ankle and foot is important to promote blood flow and reduce the risk of a blood clot. You can find out more including symptoms of a clot at www.nhs.uk/conditions/deep-vein-thrombosis-dvt.

  • Do these exercises 3 to 4 times a day.
  • Start straight away.
  • Take your boot off first.
  • Move gently and within comfort. You do not need to push into pain.


Point your foot up and down.

Repeat this 10 times.


With your heels together, move your toes apart to turn the foot outwards.

Repeat this 10 times.


Make gentle circles with your foot in one direction and then the other direction.

Repeat this 10 times.

Caring for your injury: week 3 to 6

You should stop using the boot by week 3 if you haven’t already.

Start by walking without the boot at home. Build up to walking without it outside and for longer walks. You should not be using your boot 6 weeks after the injury.

It is normal to still have mild discomfort and swelling. This may continue for 3 to 6 months.

Activity and exercise

  • Gradually increase your activity.
  • Avoid anything that involves impact for 3 months. This includes running, jumping and dancing.
  • You can now also move on to the next exercises.
  • Do these exercises 3 times a day.



Sit with your leg straight out in front of you.

Put a towel or bandage around your foot and pull it towards you.

Feel a stretch in the back of the calf.

Hold for 30 seconds.


Point your toes down as far as they go.

Put your other foot on top and apply some pressure. This will stretch the top of your foot.

Hold for 30 seconds


Level 1: These exercises are for people who could not stand on one leg before their injury.


Hold onto a firm support in a safe space.

Stand with your feet as close together as possible.

Hold your balance for 30 seconds.


Now try removing your hand.
Try to keep your balance for 30 seconds.


Hold onto a firm support.

Put one foot in front of the other, as close together as you can.

Hold this for 30 seconds.

If you can, try to let go of the support and keep your balance.

Level 2: These exercises are for people who could stand on one leg before their injury.

Do these exercises standing on your injured leg.


Hold onto a firm surface in a safe space.

Try to stand on one leg.

Hold this for 30 seconds.

Stop if it is painful.

When you can do this comfortably, try the next exercise.


Try to stand on one leg without holding on to a support.

Try to hold this for 30 seconds.

When you can do this comfortably, try the next exercise.


Try these exercises with your eyes closed.

Make sure you are always in a safe environment with a support to hold if needed.

Contact the Trauma Triage Clinic if you are struggling to recover your movement or return to activity (contact details below).

Frequently asked questions

I am struggling with my boot. What do I do?

The boot has a thicker sole which can make you feel uneven. Make sure you wear a supportive shoe or trainer on your uninjured foot. This will reduce stress on other joints.

If you need more advice, contact the Trauma Triage Clinic.

I am diabetic, does this change things?

If you have diabetes, contact us to discuss your boot. This is particularly important if you have problems with your skin or sensation. We may provide you with a specialist diabetic boot.

When can I start driving?

You can return to driving when:

  • you are no longer using your boot
  • and you can walk comfortably
  • and you can perform an emergency stop without pain.

Before you start driving again, it is recommended that you speak to your insurance company and test your ability to drive in a safe environment.

How can I get a certificate for work?

You can get a fitness for work statement from your GP.

What do I do with my boot and crutches when I no longer need them?

Both the boot and crutches can be returned to the Physiotherapy Department.


Trauma Triage Clinic 020 8934 6983 (Monday to Friday, 8am to 4pm),
For any urgent queries at other times NHS 111

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