What causes an Ankle Sprain?
Ankle sprains can occur when you ‘roll your ankle’, causing damage to the ligament(s) around the ankle.
Lateral ankle sprains are the most common, with different grades of ankle sprains based on the extent of damage caused to the ligament(s):
- Grade 1: an ‘overstretching’ of the ligament(s), but no tear
- Grade 2: a partial tear of the ligament(s)
- Grade 3: a full thickness tear of the ligament(s); more severe ankle sprains can also cause include small fractures in the bones around the ankle
The ligaments that are most commonly injured include the anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL), calcaneofibular ligament (CFL) and the posterior talofibular ligament (PTFL)
Signs and Symptoms
- A ‘popping’ sound which can be heard upon injury, most commonly in grade 3 sprains
- Difficulty weight bearing through your foot
- Swelling of the ankle
- Bruising around the ankle which may spread into the foot or leg
- Stiffness of the ankle
- A feeling of instability in your ankle
- A feeling of weakness in the ankle
- Tenderness around the ankle
What is happening with the body?
When you sprain your ankle, the damage to the ligaments and/or bone often causes immediate swelling and pain. An inflammatory process will begin which is essential in repairing the damaged ligament(s).
What can you try at home to help?
- Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation (RICE) is an important management strategy following an ankle sprain
- Pain relief medication is often encouraged if pain levels are very high; avoid anti-inflammatories in the first 48-72 hours as this can cause additional bleeding and increase bruising. Paracetamol is often enough.
How can physiotherapy help?
Ankle sprains can increase your risk of re-injury in the future, so it is important to ensure you have rehabilitated your ankle to reduce this risk.
- Diagnosis of the injury - sometimes an X-Ray is indicated to rule out a fracture. Diagnosing the specific ligament that has been injured as well as the extent of the damage will guide recovery.
- Advise on the prognosis – time frames for recovery and return to sport and hobbies, formulate action plan or suggest investigations if recovery is not meeting expectations
- Pain relief using techniques such as acupuncture, soft tissue massage and taping
- Prescription of appropriate exercises to gradually build the strength and stability up in your ankle, including progressions and specific return to sport exercises
- Manual therapy techniques to address residual stiffness following the injury
At Total Physiotherapy, we now have The Game Ready System; an active cold compression system designed to accelerate and improve recovery. The Game Ready mimics the normal ‘squeeze and release’ patterns of muscle contractions ensuring continuous removal of heat from damaged tissues, reduced muscle spasm and pain. Ankle sprains respond well to this system which can enhance and speed up recovery.