Ankle sprains are a common injury that many people will experience at some stage throughout their lifetime. They involve an injury to one or several of the ligaments that are responsible for stabilising the ankle joint. Ankle sprains can vary in severity from mild to severe and may involve an overstretch, tear or complete rupture of the involved ligament/s.
The most common type of ankle sprain is of the lateral (or outside) ankle and is usually caused by rolling the ankle inwards. Sprains to the ligaments of the medial (or inside) ankle are rarer as these ligaments and broader and therefore stronger.
Signs and symptoms of an ankle sprain include pain over the area, especially on touch; swelling with possible discolouration to the skin (such as redness or bruising); loss of movement; and an inability to put all or any of your body weight through the joint.
Correct management of ankle sprains is imperative to ensure that a full recovery is made and that pain and dysfunction does not persist long term.
Initial management of ankle sprains is targeted at reducing swelling and pain. Your physiotherapist may recommend modalities such as rest, elevation and ice in the early phases. The use of taping, compression garments or bracing are also beneficial and your therapist may also recommend some crutches for the early stages of your recovery.
As your injury begins to heal, treatment aims move towards restoring range of motion and function to the injured joint. Hands-on treatment to alleviate tight muscles and stiff joints are often used by physiotherapists and can include massage, dry needling, cupping and joint mobilisations. Taping of the joint may continue as a means of providing continued support and feedback to the joint.
A targeted exercise program is necessary to ensure the successful rehabilitation of a sprained ankle and can be easily implemented by your physiotherapist. Exercises in the early stages will be aimed at improving joint range of motion, but will rapidly progress to include strengthening and balance drills also. As your recovery continues it is important that higher level exercises, such as jumping and hopping, are included to prepare your ankle for the stresses of any sport or activities that you participate in. Carrying out a physiotherapist lead exercise program will ensure that your recovery is carried out in a safe manner and ensure that your likelihood of chronic ankle pain or instability is minimised, as well as reducing your risk of re-injury.