An ankle sprain occurs when the medial or lateral ligaments of the ankle are overstretched when the ankle unexpectedly ‘twists’ during normal walking or sport. The unexpected force of the body weight through the ligament is too much for the ligament to bear and it tears. These tears can be complete or partial. Sometimes rather than tearing the ligament pulls on the bone so hard that it pulls a piece of bone off. This is called an avulsion fracture. Rehabilitation for a sprained ankle is very important to restore full range of movement. Regaining good muscle control is important for future stability of the ankle.
Ankle sprains are more complicated than just a damaged ligament. Muscle weakness, joint stiffness and poor proprioception (your body’s sense of where various limbs are at all times) decreases quickly. This is because the leg and foot are not used normally during the period in which the ligament is healing. If these complications are not prevented recurring ankle pain and sprains can result.
What you can do to help?
Many people delay the healing of the ligaments by attempting to go back to normal activities too early. Remember, with sprained ankles, pain means STOP.
- Rest. Decrease the amount of time on your feet. If the swelling increases you have been up on it too much.
- Elevate the foot intermittently throughout the day.
- Ice 20-30 minutes 2-3x a day with a damp cloth around the ice pack, in elevation.
- Wear low heeled or flat shoes.
- Perform the exercises prescribed by your Physiotherapist.
Depending on the severity of the sprain you may benefit from an ankle brace or preventative ankle taping each time you play sport.
Your Physiotherapist will assist you by:
- Help reduce swelling and pain through application of ultrasound, ice, electrotherapy, and compression bandaging.
- Instruct on balance and proprioceptive exercises.
- Teach strengthening exercises.
- Instruct on use of crutches if needed.
- Strap the ankle to make walking easier.
- Advise you on when to return to sport.
- Recommend ankle braces for sport