Ankle sprain is one of the most common musculoskeletal injuries. A recent analysis of the research has shown that females are at a higher risk of sustaining an ankle sprain compared with males and children compared with adolescents and adults. Indoor and court sports are the highest risk activity but ankle sprains don’t only occur as a result of sport. They can also be caused by stepping awkwardly on an uneven surface, or even wearing high heels. Any action that throws off your balance and shifts your centre of gravity, could result in a painful sprain. Lateral ankle sprains are by far the most common. If not managed well, some people may go on to having recurrent issues.
The ankle joint is made up of three bones: the talus (ankle bone), the tibia (shin bone), and the fibula (the smaller leg bone). A series of ligaments running in different directions connect the bones and provide stability and support to the joint.
There are three lateral (outer) ligaments that help to stabilise the ankle joint, preventing it from moving too much. The anterior talo-fibular ligament, or ATFL is one of them. It is a short ligament that attaches the fibula to the talus. The ATFL is the weakest outer ligament and the most injured.
Sports and activities that involve running, jumping, and sudden changes in direction put pressure on the ankle and may cause it to abruptly roll outwards. When this results in overstretching and tearing of the outside ligaments, it is known as a lateral ankle sprain.
If you’ve sprained your ankle you may experience the following symptoms: swelling (immediately or over a few hours); localised tenderness or bruising around the joint; pain when trying to walk, or when you put weight on it.
Lateral ankle sprains are graded depending on severity:
RICER protocol is suggested for treatment of a sprained ankle:
You should also avoid HARM – Heat, Alcohol, Running/exercise and Massage, in the first 48 hours to keep any swelling to a minimum. You should also call your physiotherapist at your earliest convenience.
Physiotherapy can help with rehabilitation as you recover from an ankle sprain. Your physio will work with you to develop an exercise program focused on improving the mobility of the joint and regain movement. Evidence shows that commencing rehabilitation exercises within a week of a sprain speeds up recovery.
Auckland Physiotherapy has been asked to be part of an exciting new pilot study with ACC, orthopaedic surgeons, and radiology providers. This is a fully funded pathway (no surcharge) for those patients that are appropriate so please give us a call to see whether we think you may be appropriate.
Our physiotherapists will also help you to strengthen the surrounding muscles to aid your recovery. This is particularly important to prevent the injury from reoccurring. Stabilising the ankle using tape or a brace will allow the ATFL to rest and heal. Your physio can recommend a support or brace as appropriate and teach you the correct technique to ensure the best recovery.
When you return to your favourite sport/activity, you may need to brace or tape the ankle for extra support. Your physiotherapist will provide advice on whether this is necessary and when.
Get in touch with us now if you have had an ankle sprain over the past year that just doesn’t seem to be coming right!