Ankle sprains are among the most common injuries in active individuals, particularly with sports involving a regular change of direction, twisting or landing from jumping. But you don’t have to be an athlete to injure your ankle. Many ankle sprains occur during normal daily activity while walking on an uneven surface, stepping into a pothole, missing a step, or with trips or falls.
An ankle sprain is an injury that causes an excessive stretch or tearing of one or more ligaments in the ankle joint. While the ligaments are the most commonly injured structure, bone, tendon or cartilage damage may also occur.
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An ankle sprain is caused by an injury or trauma to the ankle, the most common being “rolling the ankle inwards”. Several factors have been shown to increase your risk of an ankle injury. These include:
- Previous ankle injury – a past ankle injury is the greatest predictor of a future injury.
- Poor Proprioception (balance and control around the joint)
- Poor ankle range of motion (flexibility)
- Weak muscles of the lower leg
- Poor foot biomechanics – excessive rolling of the foot and ankle when you walk and run
- Ligament laxity (looseness) – can be genetic or the result of repeated overstretching
- Poor footwear, particularly high heels
- Sports history – sports that involve a rapid change of direction, twisting, jumping and contact
- Environmental Factors – uneven, loose or slippery surfaces, potholes, changes in levels – particularly in poor lighting
Specific orthopaedic tests performed by your Physiotherapist place stress on the ligaments of the ankle and can detect a torn ligament. An X-ray or MRI may also be used to determine if the ligament is ruptured or avulsed (broken) the bone, and also to determine whether any associated injuries are present.
Ankle Ligament injuries can be graded on a severity scale:
- Grade 1: Mild injury to the ligament- stability maintained.
- Grade 2: Partial tear of the ligament- some degree of instability of the ankle.
- Grade 3: Complete tear or rupture of the ligament- the ankle joint is possibly unstable.
Your physiotherapist will assess the level of instability of the joint, and the likelihood of associated injury (for example bony injury) and advise on the best course of action. Should surgical opinion be recommended (rare for ankle sprains), all patients should be offered prehabilitation to recover ankle movement and strength before undergoing surgery.
Ankle sprains are often poorly managed, resulting in a high incidence of recurrence. An ankle sprain, even a relatively mild one, when not treated and rehabilitated appropriately can lead to weak ankles and a lifetime of recurrent ankle sprains and other overuse lower limb injuries.
Most people tend to believe that their injury has healed once the pain stops. This is not the case. The absence of pain does not mean that your ankle has fully recovered. Muscle imbalances (weak and tight muscles) in the foot, calf, thigh and hips; reduced range of motion (stiffness); excessive scar tissue; and poor proprioception (balance and control) are common consequences following ankle injury when not fully rehabbed.
We will provide expert treatment for the symptoms of your ankle sprain (pain, swelling, bruising and stiffness), and will develop an individual rehabilitation program tailored specifically to your injury. This leads to reduced recovery times, fewer complications, and reduces your risk of re-injury.
So for comprehensive assessment, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of your ankle injury see the experienced team at 4 Life Physiotherapy today.