What is an ankle sprain?
Ankle sprains are the most common cause of ankle pain and are a common sports injury but can also occur during everyday activities. The ankle joint is complex, it is held together by numerous ligaments and muscles/tendons. Ligaments are strong band-like structures that attach two bones together at a joint and therefore give support to the joint and prevent excessive movement of the two bones of the joint. A sprain occurs when the ligaments are subjected to unnatural stresses/stretches by the ankle being moved out of its normal range of motion. The ligaments at the side of the ankle are the most commonly injured and most commonly the ligaments on the outside of the ankle.
What causes an ankle sprain?
Ankle sprains are caused by sudden excessive movement of the joint for example awkwardly planting the foot and rolling over the ankle, stepping on a divot or an uneven surface, contact sports or an awkward landing in a sport.
What are the symptoms of an ankle sprain?
- A sudden onset of pain following a 'roll' of the ankle. The degree of pain will vary dependent upon the severity of the sprain.
- A feeling of instability in the ankle
Diagnosis of an ankle sprain
Your physiotherapist will take a full subjective history to ascertain cause. This will direct testing then special tests will be performed to pinpoint the affected ligament (s). The assessment will be tailored to your needs but will include some or all of the following; function, gait (walking), foot position, balance and proprioception, range of motion, flexibility, strength, palpation of structures of the ankle and specific special tests.
There are several causes of pain in the ankle and these causes may get missed if a thorough assessment is not carried out. Here at AMS we pride ourselves in carrying out thorough, appropriate assessments to rule out other causes of pain in this region and your therapist will carry out specific tests to differentiate where the pain is coming from.
Physiotherapy treatment for an ankle sprain
Treatment will vary slightly depending on the severity and location of the sprain and will be tailored to your injury and needs. Treatment may include;
- Soft tissue mobilisations
- Ankle joint mobilisations
- An exercise programme including mobility, flexibility, balance and proprioceptive exercises
- Specific advice and biomechanical education
- Taping and ankle support advice
- Injury prevention advice and exercises
- Sport specific functional retraining including plyometrics
When to seek help from a physiotherapist
You should see a doctor if your injury is severe and you are unable to walk or if your symptoms are worsening not improving. In particular you should seek medical advice if:
- Your leg or ankle looks out of shape (deformed) as there may be a fracture or dislocation
- There is loss of circulation in the foot i.e. a numb cold foot with bluish or pale skin
- The pain is severe and you cannot weight bear
- The ankle joint does not seem to work properly or feels unstable after the swelling has subsided
- The pain and swelling does not seem to be improving gradually
You should seek help from a physiotherapist if your ankle sprain does not resolve within 2 weeks so that they can carry out a thorough assessment to ascertain the exact cause of the pain and what treatments are appropriate to aid recovery and prevent re-injury.