Rolling or twisting your ankle is a very common injury whether from playing sports or just stepping incorrectly on uneven pavement. A mild sprained ankle causes your ligaments to be overstretched. (Ligaments are made of tough, connective tissue that connect one bone to another.) A severe ankle sprain can cause a complete ligament tear or even fracture the bone. There can also be injury to muscles, tendons, and other structures in the ankle joint complex.
If you rolled your ankle and get swelling and pain then it’s quite likely that you’ve sprained your ankle. Depending on if you rolled your ankle inwards or outwards will indicate which part of your ankle was injured and where it will be painful.
Traditionally, ice and anti-inflammatories have been recommended for acute ankle sprains, but there is emerging evidence which is contradictory to this (read our Icy Hot Debate blog here). More importantly, you should be resting initially and then working on gentle range of motion and protecting the ankle from further injury. For example consider stopping your sport for a short period, using crutches to avoid limping, & elevating the foot above the heart to limit swelling. With more severe ankle injuries you may require a boot to allow proper healing.
Your physiotherapist will assess the severity of your ankle sprain. Often times, diagnostic imaging (x-ray, ultrasound) is not necessary, but if needed your physiotherapist will let you know.
Given the high recurrence rates of ankle sprains, it is generally a good idea to see a physio even if you have had just a mild sprain.
Typically your physiotherapy treatments will include:
Depending on the severity of your ankle sprain, your physiotherapist will be able to progress you through the various stages of healing and tell you when you should return to your regular activities and sports. An active approach to your recovery will likely warrant the best results.
Although ankle sprains are common, proper rehabilitation has been shown to decrease the chances of having problems in the future.
Written by Michelle Ng