A sprained ankle is one of the most common types of injuries doctors see.1 Alongside being painful and swollen, it may be hard to move the foot properly.1 The good news is that there is a lot of self-care advice out there to help, and most injuries can heal well by themselves within several months.2
A sprain happens when you injure one or more of the ligaments around your joint. Ligaments are bands of fibrous tissue that connect one bone to another and support your joints. Ankle sprains occur when the foot is twisted beyond its normal motion, overextending or tearing the ligament in the process.2
Strains, sometimes referred to as a pulled muscle, can also occur when foot muscles have been overstretched or torn.3
Symptoms of a sprain or strain will depend on the severity of the injury, but can include:2
Sprains and strains happen when too much force is applied to a muscle. Carrying out weight-bearing activities, physical activities beyond your ability, and failing to properly warm up before exercise can all increase the risk of damage.
You can self-manage most sprains and strains by taking a PRICES approach in the first 48-72 hours after injury (Protect, Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation and Support) and avoiding HARM (Heat, Alcohol, Running, and Massage).
Heat from hot baths, saunas and heat packs for 72 hours.
Alcohol - as it can encourage bleeding, swelling and slow down healing time
Running or any other physical activity that could further damage the injury
Massage for the first 72 hours, as it could increase bleeding and swelling