Ankle Sprains

Mar 19, 2021 | Common MSK Conditions

An ankle sprain occurs when the strong ligaments that support the ankle stretch beyond their limits and are partially or completely torn. Depending on how much damage is done to the ligaments, these injuries can range from mild to severe.

The most common type of ankle sprain is a lateral ankle sprain, which occurs most often when the ankle rolls outward whilst the foot turns inward, causing the ligaments on the side of the ankle to stretch and tear.

The foot can twist unexpectedly and cause an ankle sprain during many different activities, including walking/running on an uneven surface, falls, and participating in sports that require cutting or rolling/twisting of the foot. Ankle sprains are most common in basketball, football, soccer, and trail running.

A sprained ankle can be quite painful! There may be significant tenderness, swelling and bruising on either side of the ankle. If there is a complete tear of the ligaments the ankle may become unstable. Without proper treatment and rehabilitation more severe sprains can weaken the ankle, making it more likely to be re-injured. Over time this can cause chronic ankle pain, and damage to the bones and cartilage of the ankle (arthritis!)

While healing the ankle will go through three different stages, the inflammatory phase, proliferative phase, and the remodelling phase. Physiotherapy treatment during stage 1 includes resting, protecting the ankle and reducing the swelling. Stage 2 includes restoring range of motion, strength, and balance. This early motion is important to prevent stiffness! Proprioceptive (balance) training is important to prevent repeat sprains and ankle instability. Stage 3 includes endurance and agility exercises to promote the gradual return to activities.

Physiotherapy treatment is important throughout these stages to ensure full recovery and function and prevent chronic ankle problems!