Ankle injuries

Ankle problems are very common and are normally caused by injuries - such as tripping or going over on your ankle.

It's common to have pain, swelling and bruising around the ankle. 

Muscle weakness around the ankle can cause ankle problems to flare-up now and again.

Most ankle problems settle within 6 weeks

Keeping active

Keeping active is an essential part of your treatment and recovery and is the single best thing you can do for your health.

Being physically active throughout your recovery can:

  • prevent a recurrence of the problem
  • maintain your current levels of fitness – even if you have to modify what you normally do, any activity is better than none
  • keep your other muscles and joints strong and flexible
  • prevent weight gain

More about keeping active

Resting or moving?

Within the first 24 to 48 hours after an ankle injury you should try to:

  • rest your ankle but avoid long spells of not moving at all
  • move your ankle gently for 10 to 20 seconds every hour when you are awake

After 48 hours:

  • Try to use your leg more - exercise really helps your ankle and can relieve pain
  • Do whatever you normally would and stay at, or return to work - this is important and is the best way to get better
  • When going upstairs, reduce the strain on your ankle by leading with your good leg - if there's a handrail, use it
  • When going downstairs, reduce the strain on your ankle by leading with your problem leg - if there's a handrail, use it

Avoid sports or heavy lifting until you have less discomfort and good movement.

What about sports?

You should take your time before taking part in any sports after an ankle problem. If you take part in sports too soon you could be injured again.

Before doing sports, you should:

  • have no swelling
  • be able to move your ankle properly through full range of movement
  • have full or close to full strength
  • be able to take your weight through your leg without limping

Remember to stretch and warm up fully before sports.

Can my ankle problem cause trouble anywhere else?

You may feel some pain in the muscles around your calf and foot. This should improve as your ankle problem gets better over the next 6 weeks.

Ankle problems can also cause limping. If the limp is severe, using a walking stick on the opposite side to your ankle problem may help.

Do I need to see my doctor?

You don't normally need to see your doctor if you follow the right advice and take the right medication.

Your ankle problem should improve over the next 6 weeks.

If you experience any of the following, you should speak to your GP as soon as possible:

  • Your ankle is misshapen
  • A hot, swollen and tender calf
  • Difficulty putting weight on your leg
  • Pain that worsens
  • Your ankle problem hasn't improved within 6 weeks

Find your nearest GP Practice

Musculoskeletal (MSK) Helpline

If you have an ankle problem, the Musculoskeletal Advice and Triage Service (MATS) can provide information and advice to help with your problem, and refer you to a healthcare professional if you need it.
How to contact