Do I need a Physio or an Osteo for a Sprained Ankle?

A sprained (or rolled) ankle is a common injury that can regularly occur through most age groups. Whether it be a sporting injury, simply tripping over, or being that bit too confident in your new pair of heels, it is something that manual therapists see all the time. 


In the early stages of an ankle sprain, rest, ice, compression, and elevation (the ‘RICER’ protocol) are the main things to consider. Following this, getting assessed and treated by a manual therapist is important not only to assess the level of tissue damage that may have occurred but also to receive the appropriate treatment and rehabilitation so as to avoid any further re-injury. Following on from this, we may suggest you go for further imaging (x-ray or ultrasound) to get a better idea of the level of damage you may have sustained. 

Both osteopaths and physiotherapists can do this for you – in both being manual therapists, our goal of treatment is to decrease your pain levels, improve your foot and ankle range of motion, whilst providing you with exercises you can do at home easily. The main difference between seeing a physiotherapist and an osteopath is that an osteopath’s treatment tends to be more hands-on. In an osteopathic treatment, a larger portion of the appointment is dedicated to the hands-on treatment, in combination with providing our patients with appropriate rehabilitation exercises. 

What would an Osteopath do for a sprained ankle?

An osteopath myself, here is what I would do for you if you came in to see me with an ankle sprain:

  • Firstly I would assess your ankle, check for any signs of a bony fracture, check your levels of movement and pain
  • I would treat the surrounding tissues which may have become tight or sore from the injury, and gently improve your ankle range of motion and movement (through techniques such as soft-tissue massage, joint mobilisation, stretching)
  • Depending on the degree of your ankle sprain, I will then give you at-home exercises, which will help to promote healing and help to speed up your recovery. Take a look at my blog ‘7 Exercises for Stronger Ankles‘ for some more information on what exercises may benefit you! 

If you have recently rolled your ankle (in the past 24 hours), here are a few easy things you can do:

  • Ice your ankle – 20 minutes on and off for 2-3 hours
  • Use a compression sock/bandage 
  • If you are unable to walk, seeing your local pharmacist or doctor for crutches
  • Speak to your local pharmacist or doctor about some oral anti-inflammatories (which if indicated, may help to reduce your swelling and pain levels)
  • Apply a topical magnesium cream/oil/spray (a natural anti-inflammatory, to help promote healing and reduce swelling)
  • Book in to see your chosen manual therapist!


Ankle sprains are very common injuries, and it is important to treat and rehab them properly, to minimise the chance of re-aggravation and re-injury. A previously sprained ankle has a higher chance of re-injury, so the quicker you develop ankle strength and stability, the better!

Dr. Sarah Duggan (osteopath) at Total Balance Health


Disclaimer: This blog post is an educational tool only.  It is not a replacement for medical advice from a registered and qualified doctor or health professional.


Any other questions not answered here? Get in touch with us! Phone (03) 97738085.

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