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Lateral Ankle Sprain Rehab

Lateral Ankle Sprain Rehab..What does that mean? What does that look like?

In this article we will go over what you should be doing for rehab at the convenience of your own home! Kick up your feet, grab a drink, and read on.

You just sprained your ankle, now what?

Ankle sprains are one of the most common injuries for all athletes. If you have played basketball, more than likely you have sprained your ankle at least once. The most common trend athletes do is that they take a few days off, do not do rehab, and go back to playing. The most important thing to do following an ankle sprain is doing proper rehab! Furthermore, according to research, one of the biggest reasons why athletes re-sprain their ankles is due to the lack of proper rehab and return back to basketball/sports. In this article we will go step-by-step what you have to do immediately after your ankle sprain.

Moreover, we created a 4 week Early Ankle Sprain Rehab Program that you can complete at home as well to help you take care of your ankle! Click HERE 

If you want to learn more about the basics of ankle sprains, check out our previous blog and our YouTube Video below!

Step 1: Limit Excessive Inflammation

After you sprain your ankle you will notice increased swelling to the point that your ankle may look like a softball! Swelling is a natural part of healing and we want inflammation; however, we don’t want excessive inflammation. The inflammatory phase may last up to 10 days, which contributes to pain, especially if there is an excessive amount. Good news is that there are a couple ways to limit swelling. Many of us have heard the acronym R.I.C.E., or Rest, Ice, Compress and Elevate.

1. R - Rest

First, rest and offloading the ligament for the first 48-72 hours is used to limit swelling, allow the tissue healing process to begin, and avoid excessive load and force on the damaged tissues. Sometimes we recommend using a boot in those first few days to protect the damaged tissue from the athletes doing too much too quickly.

Research has shown that when performing these isometric exercises that there is a pain relief window of up to 45 minutes to 8 hours following the exercise. As a result, this is a great option for those athletes who have pain and want to continue to play sports.

2. I - Ice

Second, ice is used for a couple different reasons: mainly to help decrease pain and secondarily to limit further inflammation. It is recommended to use ice for about 10-20 minutes every 3 hours for the first 72 hours.

3. C - Compression

Third, compression is another great way to limit excessive swelling in the area and provide an extra layer of protection on the damaged tissue. One of the best ways to compress the ankle is through a simple lace up ankle brace such as the one we recommend below.

The ankle brace is important because it will help decrease swelling through compression but also helps with stabilization. In other words, we do not want to over stretch the ligament into inversion so the ankle brace will help by restricting the range of motion of the ankle (for now). I know it sounds counterintuitive, but in order for the ankle sprain to heal, we want to facilitate an optimal healing environment. That optimal healing environment looks like controlled inflammation, avoiding unnecessary tissue stress, and manageable pain levels.

4. E - Elevate

Finally, elevation. Elevation can be done as often as you would like, especially while you ice. Elevation is to help flush out excessive inflammation at the foot/ankle to decrease pain. Your foot/ankle should be elevated above the heart because gravity will now be able to help move the swelling to help our overloaded lymphatic and blood vessels.

We recommend that you don’t replace traditional methods, but you consider adding isometric exercises as well. Furthermore, these isometric exercises can be upper or lower body exercises.

In conclusion, after we perform the R.I.C.E. technique diligently after the first 48-72 hours,  this allows you to do the next step: movement.

Step 2: Motion is Lotion

Like the famous saying, motion is lotion. We want to start pain free range of motion (ROM) exercises. In other words, we do not want to do ROM exercises if it hurts, we want there to be minimal to no pain at all. Therefore, if you have a grade three ankle sprain meaning a full rupture, ROM exercises will be delayed in comparison because of the pain. Thankfully, the majority of ankle sprains are grade 1 or 2. The only motion we want to limit early on is inversion, in which your ankle goes to the inside because we want to protect the ligament!

Step 3: Strengthening

After you get through the initial few days of recovering from the ankle sprain, you need to start being active. However, your level and intensity of activity will look different than what you were used to (again for now). There are numerous alternatives and must do exercises you need to be doing during this time. You can strengthen different muscle groups at the hip, knee, spine, and at the ankle without putting too much weight on your foot. One type of exercise we like to do are isometric exercises with a band or against a ball. Check out our blog article on benefits of isometric exercises HERE.


To conclude, those are the three big steps to follow. You must really focus on limiting excessive inflammation because if we have too much swelling and pain, you will not be able to do the next parts of the rehab: movement and strengthening. The way we will limit inflammation is through that R.I.C.E. technique.

Need More Help?

Early Rehab Exercises:

Here is a video of exercises you can be doing early on in your ankle rehab.

Additional Resources

$ 39
One Time Payment
  • 4-Week Program; 5 Training Days per Week
  • 100+ Detailed Step-By-Step Video Exercises
  • Bonus Week (Week 0) For Recent (<5 Days) Ankle Sprains
  • PDF Resources to Help Keep You On Track
  • Lifetime Access
$ 59
One Time Payment
  • 2 Main Phases: 1) Build the Foundation; 2) Sport Specific Training
  • 6-Week Total; 5-Training Days Per Week
  • Checkpoints & Objective Tests Throughout the Program and to Track Your Progress
  • Developed by Doctors of Physical Therapy and Backed by a Fellow-Trained Foot/Ankle Specialists
  • 150+ Exercises with Step-By-Step Video Guided Instructions


Dabadghaw, Rachana Rehabilitation of lateral ankle sprains in sports
Mattacola et al Rehabilitation of the ankle after acute sprain or chronic instability
Vuurberg et al. Diagnosis, treatment and prevention of ankle sprains: update of an evidence based clinical guideline

The Basketball Doctors - Gabriel Ignacio Physical Therapist

Dr. Gabriel Ignacio PT, DPT, OCS, TPI

The Basketball Doctors - Marco Lopez Physical Therapist

Dr. Marco Lopez PT, DPT, CSCS

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