Ankle sprains are common injuries that can happen to anyone at any time. Whether from a sports activity or simply stepping off a curb the wrong way, ankle sprains can be painful and debilitating. But did you know that physio for ankle sprains can be a highly effective treatment option for ankle sprains?
Ankle sprains occur when the ankle joint’s ligaments are stretched or torn. They can range from mild to severe, depending on the extent of the injury. Traditional treatment methods for ankle sprains have been poor and often only involve rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE). However, physiotherapy has gained recognition as a valuable approach to treating and rehabilitating ankle sprains.
Physiotherapy for ankle sprains focuses on restoring the injured ankle’s strength, flexibility, and stability. By utilising various techniques and exercises, physiotherapists can help individuals recover from ankle sprains more quickly and effectively. Suppose you’ve recently experienced an ankle sprain or are prone to spraining your ankle. In that case, it’s essential to understand the benefits of physiotherapy and how it can aid in your recovery process.
What is an ankle sprain?
Almost everyone has twisted their ankle at some point; it is one of the most common reasons for people to visit an emergency department. Technically, an ankle sprain occurs when an ankle twists, causing damage to one of its supporting ligaments. The ligaments can be overstretched, partially torn or completely ruptured, depending on the force of the injury. The most often involved ligament is the ATFL, or the anterior-talofibular ligament, located on the outside of the ankle.
While many ligaments surround and support the ankle, this ligament is the most vulnerable as it stops the ankle from rolling inwards, which is how most ankles are injured. Athletes who jump while moving in different directions, such as basketball and netball players, are the most prone to this injury as they often land on their foot when it is not entirely flat, twisting it and injuring the ligaments.
Common signs and symptoms of ankle sprains
Most people won’t have any problem diagnosing that they have a sprained ankle. The symptoms are pain, swelling and tenderness over the area of damage, usually the outside of the ankle.
Depending on the severity of the injury, there may be bruising, reduced range of movement, instability and pain with weight bearing.
In more severe injuries, there may even be a loss of function, where you cannot walk on the ankle, numbness and a feeling of coldness in the foot.
Physiotherapy treatment for ankle sprains
Twisted ankles can also cause a fracture of the ankle, not just ligament damage and many times, a bad sprain and a fracture cannot be told apart without proper medical assessment and an X-ray.
Your physiotherapist can identify if your sprain is severe enough for further investigation to rule out a fracture. They will also classify the severity of the sprain, providing you with a clear course of treatment.
Many factors can lead someone to be more prone to ankle sprains, including general hyperflexibility, unsupportive footwear and anatomical structure. However, by far, the most common reason for an ankle sprain is the existence of a previous sprain without complete rehabilitation.
This is because following an ankle sprain, many people are left with weakness, instability or stiffness, reduced balance and proprioception – which is a sense of where your body is positioned. These things can mean that the next time your ankle is in a vulnerable position, you don’t have the strength, awareness of position, balance or structural control to ensure it is in the correct position before putting all your weight through it, causing another injury.
As well as helping you reduce and recover from the pain and swelling of the injury in the early days. Your physiotherapist is trained to identify which issues are likely to affect you in the future and assist you with a personalised rehabilitation program to ensure your ankle is as strong and stable as possible to prevent future injuries.
When should you start physio on a sprained ankle?
Physiotherapy rehabilitation usually begins after the initial discomfort and swelling have passed. Typically, this occurs between a few days and a week following the initial injury. Rehabilitation for a sprained ankle occurs in stages and is customised to each person’s injury.
Final thoughts on physio for ankle sprains
When it comes to ankle sprains, the best course of action is to take the necessary steps to prevent them in the first place. Wear supportive shoes when participating in sports or any activity involving jumping and twisting motions.
Additionally, make sure to practice good balance and proprioception exercises regularly so your body can recognise where it is in space.
If you experience an ankle sprain, don’t hesitate to seek help from a qualified physiotherapist who can assess the injury and provide the best treatment plan for your recovery.