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Ankle Sprain

What is an Ankle Sprain?

An ankle sprain is a well-known injury that involves the strain of the ligaments that support the ankle joint. Usually, it occurs in the ligaments on the outside of the ankle is injured (a lateral ankle sprain).

Causes of an Ankle Sprain

Lateral ankle sprains happen when the foot rolls inwards under the leg (called inversion), straining the ligaments on the outside of the ankle that prevent this movement. This may occur when walking or runiing on uneven ground or when changing direction suddenly. Rehabilitation should occur after all ankle sprains no matter the severity, to ensure and reduce the likelihood of them happening again.

Medial ankle sprains are less common due to the greater reinforcement on this side of the ankle, and occur when the ligament is stretched or strained by the foot rolling out under the leg (called eversion).

How do I know if I have sprained my ankle?

Ankle sprains occur after a specific incident, such as your foot rolling inwards, or stepping on a pothole. They lead to pain and swelling over the affected ligaments, and often some difficulty walking. Our physiotherapists can diagnose and help rehabilitate a sprained ankle. Rehabilitation is highly recommended for those who play sports to ensure all your strengthen is regained. Our physiotherapists will be able to assess the severity of the injury by performing a range of tests and then will proceed to make a suitable personal plan for your recovery. Scans may be required if the Physiotherapist believes it could be more severe.

How can Physiotherapy help with an ankle sprain?

In the initial phase after your injury, following the POLICE protocol (protect, off-load, ice, compression and elevate) can help settle down early symptoms. Our physiotherapists will most likely refer you to complete an X-ray scan to ensure a fracture has not occurred. You will be able to begin moving your ankle and walking around on your ankle from day one, and this will help you return to activity quicker.

Strengthening and balance exercises

Our physiotherapists will create a personalized program of exercises to regain movement in the ankle, strengthen the muscles around the ankle, and also work on your joint position sense and confidence with challenging single leg tasks.

Mobilisation and manual therapy

It is important to regain a full range of motion and reduce pain quickly after an ankle sprain and also to reduce pain quickly to get back to your desired activity. Our physiotherapists will be able to help you with this.

Taping and bracing

Having your ankle taped or braced when you return to your desired activity may be helpful to ensure you are supporting your ligaments and muscles, therefore, allowing you to have full confidence in your abilities. Our Physiotherapists can show you how to tape your ankle correctly or help you in purchasing a brace.

How effective is physiotherapy for ankle sprains?

It is estimated that up to 30–40% of ankle sprains becoming reoccurring instabilities. It is important for you if you have an ankle sprain to seek help for rehabilitation and treatment for the injury so that does not become a continuous issue. Strengthening and proprioceptive exercises are recommended to reduce pain, return to your activity quickly and prevent further re-injury. Mobilisation and manual therapy has prove to improve motion and reduce pain in the short term. Taping and bracing has proven to show prevention of future injuries. Ice has been shown to reduce swelling and pain and anti-inflammatory medication is strongly supported to reduce pain in the short term.

The following treatments are not supported treatments of a sprained ankle:

  • Acupuncture and dry needling
  • Electrotherapy
  • Ultrasound

What can I do at home?

For the first 2-3 day it is recommended to use ice for 10 minutes on/off three times a day which may help settle pain. A compression bandage may help reduce swelling, as will elevation of the affected leg.

Simple exercises such as drawing the alphabet with your foot every few hours throughout the day to improve movement. You can also start some muscle activation and strengthening exercises by doing 5 x 10-second holds, pushing your foot down, up, in and out against a resistance such as your own foot or a wall.

Once the pain is reduced, our physiotherapists will implement a personal plan including at-home exercises.

How long will my recovery be?

Minor ankle injuries usually heal quickly and do not require much time away from normal activities and sports. Although still require 3–6 weeks of strengthening and exercise. It is important to ensure your ankle regains the full capacity to reduce the risk of the injury recurring. Major ankle injuries will take a longer period of time to heal and rehabilitation may be required.

If you would like to find out more please call us or book an appointment here.

Back to Physiotherapy for Your Ankle

Reference: Australian Physiotherapy Association 2019, Your Body, viewed 19 November 2019, < https://australian.physio/>.