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Effective ways to manage sprains and strains

At some point in our life we will all experience a mild sprain in one of our joints, whether it is the ankle, knee or wrist.

It can be quite painful in the immediate aftermath as well as being very frustrating as a result of reduced mobility.

What is important post injury is to focus on your treatment in ensuring you get back to full fitness as a quickly as possible, rather than dwelling on the injury itself.

What causes a sprain?

Regardless of the origin of a sprain, the root cause is always the same in stretching the ligaments beyond their normal range of motion. Within each joint there are ligaments which are tough bands of tissue connecting the various bones and their main responsibility is the overall stabilisation of the joint which in turn allows you to walk, run and turn freely.

Where serious damage to a ligament occurs the stability of the joint is severely reduced, in which case surgery is often required to rectify the issue combined with extensive physiotherapy to rebuild strength in the joint.

Regardless so the ligament there are three grades of severity post injury, with a grade one being the least sever and grade three being the most. The grading of the injury will determine the treatment required and your recovery times.

Diagram showing the different gradings of a lateral ankle sprain

We know that ligaments are present within all our joints, but a sprain can happen in many ways depending on the affected area of the body. A sprained ankle can result from slipping on a wet floor or landing awkwardly from a jump. The sprain itself occurs from unnatural movement of the joint where it has over extended and damaged the ligaments.

What are the recovery times and treatment options?

Typically, sprained ankles, knees and wrists are all self-limiting and will get better in time. As a rough guide a mild sprain (grade one) should heal within a few days once the inflammation has subsided and allow you to become more active. It is advisable to take it easy to ensure that no further damage is caused, perhaps reverting to swimming rather than any weight bearing exercise in the short term until you have sufficiently rebuilt strength in the affected joint.

In the immediate aftermath of a sprain it is advisable to stop what you are doing and rest. Following a sprained ankle for instance there is a weakness and instability in the joint, therefore carrying on can lead to further injury i.e. rolling your ankle. Continued unnatural movements of a joint will increase the chances of further damage to the ligaments, which can result in something more serious requiring a longer recovery time.

Common symptoms following any sprain are pain and inflammation, which is the key reason why the mobility of the joint is affected.

Ice can be used to help manage the inflammation, which in turn can help to reduce any pain experienced.

Elevating the affected body part above chest level can also help to reduce the swelling, as gravity helps to move the flow of blood away from the inflamed area.

This process is referred to as the RICE process, consisting of Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.

Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation


Rebuilding strength in the affected joint(s) is the number one priority post injury, helping to get you back to full fitness. If you have been referred to a physiotherapist then they will be able to create a tailored plan for you to follow at home and inbetween sessions.

Once you have suffered one injury your chances of doing again are greatly increased since there is an inherent weakness in the joint or muscle and that is why strengthening exercises are so important in order to get you back to full fitness and reduce the risk of it happening again.

For more information in strengthening exercises and how to get back to full fitness visit the Sports Injury Clinic YouTube channel which offers a range of rehabilitation videos.

Physio knee

Sport Braces

Sports braces are available for all areas of the body, from ankle supports to knee supports to wrist supports. The main reason behind wearing a sports brace is to give the patient the protection and support they require to continue exercising. They are also designed to extend the life of the physiotherapy session, offering support and in cases therapeutic stretching which works alongside your physio sessions.

An ankle support is available in a variety of designs depending on the condition you wish to manage. In managing a mild sprain a patient may opt for a standard ankle support, offering compression to help manage pain and inflammation. Should they require the ability to vary the amount of compression applied then strap based supports can be purchased for a more bespoke level of comfort.

In more serious injuries a patient may opt to wear an ankle support designed to act as an external ankle ligament. In this way the ankle joint is supported without the movement and flexibility of the joint being compromised. There are also rigid stirrup brace options available which prevent the ankle from rolling and offer a greater level of stabilisation for the patient.

What is important to note when selecting a brace is that you get the right one. It may sound obvious but with so many options it can sometimes be difficult to identify the right one but if you are ever in doubt speak with a clinical professional or a member of the Customer Care Team for further advice.

What are the chances of repeat injuries?

It is a very difficult question to answer.

On one side, a weakness in a joint or muscle can be exposed once again in the future however rebuilding strength in the joint or muscle can help to prevent future injury.

Whilst there is no straight forward answer, what is important is ensuring that you do the right things to manage the injury to avoid it from getting worse and giving you the best possible chance of a speedy recovery.

If you are unsure as to the severity of an injury then you should seek clinical advice for a professional diagnosis, where they will be able to offer advice of any additional treatment required during recovery.

The same applies should you encounter repeated injuries, as you may need physiotherapy to help with strengthening exercises.