Ankle sprains are one of the most common sporting injuries and also one with lots of misconceptions!
What is an ankle sprain?
An ankle sprain is a tear or partial tear of the ligaments around your ankle. Most commonly, ankle sprains occur on the outside of the ankle.
There are three types of ankle sprain:
- Lateral (outside) ankle sprain
- High ankle sprain (between the lower long bones of your shin)
- Medial (inside) ankle sprain
The severity of an ankle sprain is determined by:
- How many ligaments are involved
- Whether or not ligaments still work i.e. how lax your ligament feels
- If there is a fracture or boney bruise
Most (regular) lateral ankle sprains take anywhere between 2-6 weeks to completely recover. High ankle sprains and medial ankle sprains are less common and do take longer (8-12 weeks). This will vary depending on the grade and many other factors.
What do I do if I have sprained my ankle?
In the first 48-72hrs PRICER is the most important treatment to use.
Protect: Don’t do anything to silly
Rest: Relative rest (you don’t need to be a couch potato but give it respect)
Ice: 20 min on 2 hrs off
Compression: just not while you sleep so you don’t cut off circulation
Elevation: foot up!
Rehabilitation: it is really important to rehabilitate an ankle and protect it while it gets better so you do not injure it again. This involves taping or bracing and exercises.
Also in the first 48-72hrs avoid HARM and anti-inflammatory medication.
Heat: no heat packs as this will increase swelling.
Alcohol: is a peripheral vasodilator (it opens up blood vessels) and will increase swelling.
Running: this will hurt, increase swelling and will overload healing tissue.
Massage: (on a fresh tear of any kind)
There is emerging evidence that suggests that early ant-inflammatory use may delay healing and could result in higher injury rates.
Should I see a physiotherapist? YES! And you don’t have to wait.
There is a misconception that you need to wait a week before seeing a physiotherapist. Physiotherapists are experts in assessing acute injuries. Even on the day of the sprain the physio can:
- Assess for extent of injury
- Give walking/mobility aids if needed
- Apply bandages or tape to reduce swelling and pain
- Refer for X-Ray if needed (there is a clinical criteria for this)
- Give you a rough guide re return to sport timeframe and treatment plan
We get the most accurate reading (of the degree of injury) with ligament testing at 5 days post sprain. But there is plenty we can start (early) to get you going faster.
Do I need to do exercises? YES!
An ankle sprain is a simple and common injury, so lots of people don’t seek help. Exercises after a sprain stop it happening again. When a ligament is injured, position sense receptors inside and around the ligament are damaged. This decreases the ability for you to identify where your ankle is in space. Some simple strength and position sense exercises can correct these changes.
Please see the following video for instruction on how to tape your ankle.