Ankle sprains can occur at any time, whether it be on the basketball court or on the sidewalk. As we head into the icy season, ankle injuries are bound to happen. The ankle joint is made up of the tibia and fibula, bones which combine the lower leg, and the talus. Bones are held together by ligaments, which are thick bands of tissue to add stability to the joint. When an ankle is sprained, the ligaments are overstretched (Type I), partially torn (Type II) or completely torn (Type III). The ankle is typically painful, swollen and discolored. Most ankle sprains heal within 3-8 weeks, with the more severe injuries requiring more time to regain stability.
To promote healing, decrease pain and reduce swelling, follow the RICE principle for the first 48-72 hour after the injury. REST the affected area to stop new injury and bleeding. ICE is applied to reduce pain and inflammation. Crushed ice works best because it conforms well to the bony ankle. Make sure to place a towel in between the ice and your skin and apply ice for 10 minutes. You can alternate 10 min on and then 10 min off for the first hour or two post injuries, if required. COMPRESSION should be applied using an elastic bandage, splint or cast to limit swelling and fluid accumulation around the injury. ELEVATE the injured area above the level of your heart to prevent further fluid accumulation.
Early treatment with a Physiotherapist will also ease and reduce your recovery time. A Physiotherapist will conduct a thorough assessment of your ankle and provide support in four main areas.
1. Symptom Management
Physiotherapists can assist you in the pain and loss of mobility in your ankle. Through a special technique called mobilizations, Physiotherapists can assist in the development of a healthy scar and increase ankle mobility.
2. Exercise Instruction
Exercise helps regain full movement and assists with circulation to the injured site. Instruction on appropriate strength and flexibility exercises for the surrounding musculature will be provided.
3. Graduated Plan for Return to Activity
While movement is important to recovery, it needs to be carefully progressed to allow for adequate healing of the ligaments. Activities will progress from gentle range of motion exercises, to strengthening exercises, to activities on a wobble board, in order to retrain your ankle to react quickly to changes in position.
4. Prevention from Further Injury
Bracing or regular taping of the ankle may be required. It is normal to continue to expect some discomfort with activity but the ankle should not become significantly swollen and sore after activity. Continue to warm up before exercise and take precaution on those slippery roads!