What is an Inversion Ankle Sprain? Causes, Treatment, Recovery

What is an Inversion Ankle Sprain? Causes, Treatment, Recovery

If you’ve recently sprained your ankle, you may be wondering what kind of sprain you have so you can treat and rehabilitate your injury appropriately. Ankle injuries are some of the most common among athletes and active people but are often not treated properly or not treated at all. By doing your research and treating your injury properly, you’ll avoid the risk of reoccurring injury and long-lasting ankle weakness.

Here’s everything you need to know to treat and rehabilitate your injury effectively.

What’s the difference between an inversion ankle sprain and a lateral ankle sprain?

An inversion ankle sprain is the most common type of ankle sprain and involves the ligaments below the ankle joint (the posterior talofibular ligament, anterior talofibular ligament, and the calcaneofibular ligament). When you step awkwardly and your foot is forced inward toward your other foot, these ligaments are pulled beyond their comfortable range, causing stretching and even tearing.

What causes an inversion ankle sprain?

An inversion sprain is usually caused by stepping on uneven terrain, such as in a rabbit hole while hiking, or on uneven ground while running when your foot is forced inward and you “roll” onto your ankle.

This sprain can also happen in everyday life situations, such as while stepping off of a curb, walking in unsupportive shoes, or even getting in and out of bed awkwardly. The stronger your ankle, the less likely these everyday sprains are to occur, and the more mobility your ankle has, the less severe it’s likely to be.

What are the symptoms of an inversion ankle sprain?

The symptoms of an inversion ankle sprain include: 

  • Sudden, severe pain at the time of injury
  • Some inflammation around the ankle joint – especially below it
  • An unwillingness to walk on the injury, though to what degree does depend on the severity of the injury. In all cases, except for extremely bad sprains, you’ll be able to stand on that foot, even if it’s unpleasant.
  • You may have bruising below the ankle if the sprain is severe 

How do you treat an inversion ankle sprain?

If you’re treating a severe sprain, where you are unable to walk on your ankle or have severe bruising shortly after the injury, your best first step is to talk to your doctor or go to the emergency room to get an x-ray to check you don’t have an unknown fracture.

Once you’re sure you’re dealing with a sprain, your next steps are: 

  • Rest – try to stay off your foot for the first 12-24 hours after injury, though gentle walking is usually okay.
  • Ice – apply ice to the area as soon as possible, and again as often as you can for the first 24-48 hours.
  • Elevate – keep the ankle raised when possible to help reduce swelling and inflammation. 

Most people can start returning to light exercise after 3-5 days after the injury, but you need to listen to your body and take things easy, focusing on increasing mobility and building strength in your ankle.

How long does it take for an inversion ankle sprain to heal?

Most inversion ankle sprains start to feel significantly better after 3-5 days but usually take 6 weeks to heal completely. Care should be taken in this time to stick to even surfaces and build strength and mobility in the ankle. For severe strains, more time may be needed, so listen to your body and the guidance of your doctor.

How do I rehabilitate my ankle after an inversion sprain?

Start with gentle stretching and walking on even ground, building up the time you walk for each day. Focus on ankle mobility and strengthening exercises, increasing the difficulty as necessary. Our eBook Joint Health 101 contains detailed programs for ankle rehabilitation, as well as other joints, and is an incredible resource for anyone looking to build flexibility and strength not just in their ankle, but in other key joints. To find out more or get your copy, click here.

Back to blog