Ankle Injuries

Ankle sprains occur when the ligaments connecting the ankle bones are over-stretched.

The Ankle Joints and feet are the link between your body and the ground.

If you “roll your ankle” as the foot hits the ground you may sprain the ankle – damaging the ligaments that connect the ankle bones and causing pain in the top of the foot.

Physiotherapists can assess your swollen ankle to determine the severity and type of ankle injury. Your physiotherapist can then provide treatment to promote healing and recovery. Your Leading Edge physiotherapist will also provide strategies and exercises to prevent further sprains of the ankle and to enhance performance on return to sport.

What is an ankle sprain?

The ankle joint is made up of four bones shaped to make the joint stable. Increased stability of the joint is provided by ligaments, which are bands of strong, fibrous tissue that guide movement and prevent the joint from moving too much. An ankle sprain occurs when the ligaments are over stretched causing ligament fibres and small blood vessels to tear. Pain, bleeding in the tissues and swelling are the result.

What should I do after a sprain?

As soon as possible and for 72 hours after injury, use the RICER method:

  • Rest - Take it easy and only move within your limit of pain.

  • Ice - As soon as possible, and for 20 minutes every two hours, apply ice or a frozen gel pack wrapped in a damp towel. This helps to control bleeding and pain and reduces secondary tissue damage.

  • Compression - Firmly bandage the injury. This helps to control swelling.

  • Elevation - As much as possible, elevate your injury higher than the level of your heart to reduce swelling.

  • Referral - Make an appointment with a physiotherapist for diagnosis, advice and ongoing treatment.

An important first step in your rehabilitation from ankle sprains

Recovery can start very early after an injury. Leading Edge rehabilitation techniques will help reduce the time that your ankle is painful and movement is restricted so that you can get back to work and sport more quickly. Rehabilitation also facilitates a good quality ligament repair and the return of normal muscle and nerve function.

Avoid any of the HARM factors in the first 48 hours to prevent increased swelling and help your recovery:

  • Heat

  • Alcohol

  • Running

  • Massage

How can physiotherapy help?

  • Your Leading Edge Physiotherapist will examine the injured ankle to determine which ligaments are damaged and to what extent they are torn, and can order an X-ray if needed, or refer you onto our network of GPs and Sports Physicians if more detailed investigations like an MRI are required.

  • Early treatment will reduce the swelling and pain, making it easier to walk. Even one treatment and advice can make a significant difference.

  • Special techniques called mobilisation help to increase your range of ankle movement so that it is easier to walk and move the ankle. Mobilising the ankle also helps to build a healthy scar in the ligament.

  • Your physiotherapist will show you exercises that are important to improve the strength of the calf and ankle muscles to compensate for the damaged ligament, and give some protection while the ligament is healing.

  • Your physiotherapist will also teach you how to retrain your muscles to react quickly to changes in ankle position to prevent repetitive sprains.

When will I be able to return work/sport?

  • Your Leading Edge Physiotherapist will discuss the injury with you and estimate the time it will take to recover. The time to full recovery varies from only a week or so, up to a few months, depending on the severity of ligament damage. Remember that the pain and swelling subsides much faster than the time it takes for the ligament and muscles to regain normal strength. Returning to work or sport too early can delay healing and prolong recovery.

  • Your physiotherapist can teach you how to do special ankle taping or fit you with an ankle brace so that you can return to activity earlier, while protecting the ankle from further damage.

  • Your physiotherapist can help you plan ways to do alternative training so that you maintain fitness and muscle strength while your ankle is healing.

Can ankle sprains be prevented?

You can reduce the chance and severity of ankle sprains.

  • Wear activity-specific well-fitting shoes, use sports strapping tape or an ankle brace to provide good ankle joint support.

  • Avoid activities on slippery or uneven surfaces and in areas with poor lighting.

  • Keep your leg muscles strong, especially your calf and ankle muscles to help protect the ligaments.

  • Improve your balance by practising standing on one leg to challenge your balance responses and the muscles around your ankle.

  • Prepare your body for activity by warming up well. Your physiotherapist can provide you with a suitable warm-up routine.

What do I do right now?

If you have just sprained your ankle, then the first thing to do is the follow the RICER and No HARM principles listed above.

Your next step is to have your ankle injury assessed by a Leading Edge Physiotherapist. Contact us or book online today.