When you experience a pain around your ankle while working out, you may wonder what kind of injury you have actually incurred. Most often, you’ll have incurred a sprain or a strain of your foot muscle, tendon or ligaments. How do you know the difference and how do you treat them?


An ankle sprain is a painful injury that occurs when you roll, twist or turn your ankle in an awkward way. This abrupt trauma can damage or tear the ankle ligaments which normally stabilize the joint and prevent excessive movement. When the ligaments are affected, the condition is referred to as a sprain. However, if a tendon is affected, it is referred to as a strain.

Ankle sprains and strains lead to decreased stability and increased pain within the ankle joint making it difficult to walk or function throughout the day following the injury. ​

Ankle sprains usually occur following a fall that twists your ankle, after landing awkwardly on your foot, or while exercising on an uneven surface. Ankle sprains are common amongst athletes involved in sports requiring a lot of side-to-side motion, such as tennis, squash, soccer and football.

A strain is an injury of a muscle or tendon. Tendons are fibrous cords of tissue that attach muscles to bone. Chronic strains are the result of prolonged, repetitive movements of muscles and tendons. Insufficient breaks during intensive training oftentimes lead to a strain. Symptoms of a strain include pain, muscle spasm, muscle weakness, swelling, inflammation, and cramping. In severe strains, the muscle and/or tendon can be partially or completely ruptured, often incapacitating the individual.

There is no way to make yourself immune to sprains and strains, but proper stretching, adequate exercising, use of appropriate footwear and warming up before engaging in physical activity will help alleviate these potential problems.

Symptoms of a sprain or strain include

  • Throbbing pain, especially while weight bearing on the affected foot
  • Bruising, swelling and inflammation in the region of discomfort
  • A restricted range of motion to the affected foot
  • A “pop” sound at the time of the injury

Treatment of ankle sprains or strains

Treatment for an ankle sprain depends on the severity of your injury. Many people are able to treat their condition at home simply with rest, ice and elevation. In more severe cases, you should consult your Chiropodist or Podiatrist (Foot Specialist) or other health care provider since there is the possibility of ligament rupture or bony fractures.

​Conservative Treatment:

  • Rest and elevation: Avoid putting weight on the affected foot for 3 to 5 days following the injury, and elevate the foot as much as possible to reduce inflammation.
  • ​Ice: Apply ice packs to the affected area for 15 to 20 minutes, 4 to 6 times a day for several days.
  • ​Anti-inflammatory medication (NSAID): Try ibuprofen (Advil), naproxen (Aleve) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) to reduce pain and swelling. Use as indicated on bottle.
  • ​Assistive devices: As walking with a sprained ankle may be painful, you may need to use crutches until the
    pain subsides.
  • Cold laser phototherapy: Low level light therapy (LLLT) is a painless procedure that encourages healing of damaged tissue, and provides temporary pain relief.


  • Custom Foot Orthotics: Orthotics can help prevent ankle sprains by stabilizing the heel joint during ground contact, to prevent abnormal rolling of the ankle joint.
  • Ankle braces and supports: Following recovery, you may benefit from using an ankle brace or support to prevent reoccurrence while participating in physical activity.
  • Stretch and Strengthen: Ensure to properly stretch all muscle groups prior to physical activity, and strengthen your ankle-guarding muscles by use of a wobble board or firm pillow.

Contact us today to see how our Foot Specialists can alleviate foot pain caused by an ankle sprain.