What is an Ankle Sprain?

A sprain, in its simplest terms, is an injury to a ligament. Ligaments are fibrous structures that are used throughout the body to attach one structure to another, usually bone to bone. The ankle is required to be a fairly mobile joint, to allow us to walk, run, jump, swim and everything else we do with our lower limbs. The ankle consists of seven ligaments which restrict movement of the ankle moving past what is safe for it to do so, reducing the risk of damage to the joint. Sprains of all types can be separated into three grades. A grade I tear is a minor tear (up to 25% of the ligament) A grade II tear is a moderate tear (25-90% of the ligament). A grade III tear is a severe tear (90-100% of the ligament). A grade III tear may also be referred to as a “ruptured ligament”.

What caused my Ankle Sprain?

The most common mechanism of injury to the ligaments of the ankle is “rolling the ankle”, in which the sole of the foot rolls inwards. This movement, while under load, such as during a rapid change of direction, can place stress on the Anterior Talo-Fibular Ligament, the most commonly injured ligament in the ankle. This is a lateral ankle injury A less common tear may involve the Anterior Inferior Tibio-Fibular Ligament, and the Posterior Inferior Tibio-Fibular Ligament. This condition is known as a “High Ankle Sprain” and would normally occur during a higher impact where the foot is pressed rapidly upwards into the ankle joint. It is uncommon to sprain the medial ankle ligaments (the inner ankle), as these ligaments are not only very strong.

How can you help me with my Ankle Sprain?

Your physiotherapist will take a detailed history of your ankle injury in order to best diagnose your ankle sprain. They will also perform a detailed physical examination of your hip, knee, ankle and foot in order to provide you with the best possible treatment plan.

The specific management will depend on the grade of ankle injury, as well as the severity of your pain. In the case of grade 3 ankle injuries, or ligament ruptures, surgery may be required depending on your desired activity levels. In these cases, physiotherapist supervised rehabilitation is essential in making a full recovery. Typically, your treatment will involve manual therapy techniques to reduce your pain and improve your ankle mobility. You will also be given strengthening and balance exercises in order to improve your function and prevent any future recurrence.

What should I do to avoid aggravating my Ankle Sprain?

  • AVOID activities that aggravate your pain (until you have seen your physiotherapist
  • AVOID running or high impact activities, especially activities that require sudden stopping or changes of direction.
  • REMAIN ACTIVE, while avoiding aggravating activities
  • For RELIEF, applying ice to the area may help to reduce some pain and inflammation. Wrap the ice to prevent any direct contact with your skin.
  • For RELIEF, keep a gentle compression bandage on the area, and elevate the foot to avoid increased swelling. Be sure not to cut off circulation to your foot!
  • RECEIVE physiotherapy care to get your joints, ligaments and muscles performing to their optimum level.

Keep good care of your body and your physiotherapist will continue to monitor your condition. Once your Ankle Sprain has resolved you will be able to resume your full activities without worrying about future flare-ups.

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