Ankle sprains are very common, especially in the sporting population; affecting between 6-11 people per 1,000 (Doherty et al. 2014). After a single ankle sprain injury your chances of future recurrence dramatically increase due to chronic ankle instability, caused by ligament damage (Hupperets at al. 2009).
Ankle sprains usually occur when somebody “goes over or twists their ankle” by excessively inverting their ankle and damaging the lateral ligament complex. The extent of the damage caused varies between individual injuries.
Signs and Symptoms:
• swelling and bruising of the lateral (outside) ankle complex
• swelling and bruising may spread further down the foot and up the lower leg
• pain – severity of pain varies between individual injuries
• stiffness of your ankle joint
• feeling of instability “weakness”
What happens when you sprain your ankle – the facts
Excessive forced-inversion movement of the ankle causes damage to the ligaments on the outside of the foot. More complex injuries can also cause damage to other areas of the foot. Reduced dorsiflexion (pointing toes toward head) is commonly associated with ankle sprains, meaning movement of the ankle joint becomes restricted. Inflammation – in the form of swelling and bruising – is essential to help repair the damage.
Therefore, use of anti-inflammatory medication is not recommended in the initial days following injury. Evidence suggests muscle weakness is not associated with ankle sprains but deficits in proprioception, balance and reaction times (Eechaute et al 2009).
Following an ankle injury many people go for an x-ray to ensure there are no fractures present. However, x-ray’s do not show ligament damage. If your x-ray results are clear but you are in severe pain and are not responding to physiotherapy treatment than an MRI scan may be needed.
Ankle Rehab – from your Chartered Physiotherapist
Aim of treatment is to speed up recovery time and reduce the risk of a repeat injury.
• Day 1-7
Rest, Ice, compression bandage, elevate, regular ankle pumping (up and down movements) to help blood flow, weight-bearing as tolerated.
• Day 7-14
Continued use of support bandage if needed, increase walking/standing (weight-bearing) as tolerated, begin physiotherapy treatment; to include manual therapy – to help mobilize the joint, reduce swelling and begin rehab exercises, Rehab exercises will include balance work and specific joint movements.
• Day 14 +
Plyometric exercises and wobble board rehab will help to prepare you for return to sport and normal activities.
Average recovery time for ankle injuries is 4-8 weeks, depending on extent of ligament damage, patient lifestyle and adherence to treatment. Physiotherapy intervention may only consist of 2-4 treatment sessions and will have a significant effect on recovery time and prevent future recurrences of ankle sprains (Van der Wees et al, 2006).