What you might be feeling
An ankle sprain is a common injury that can happen during sport or day to day living. It is caused by a rapid stretch of the ligaments around the ankle joint and this can result in a tear or rupture. This can happen with an awkward land from a jump, a direct force to the ankle or even walking on uneven ground.
At the time of injury it is common to hear a “pop” and experience immediate pain. Along with this you may also notice immediate swelling and some bruising may appear. The ankle will be tender to touch and it may feel warm due to the swelling around the area. Depending on the severity of the injury you may find it difficult to weight bear on the injured side and may not be able to walk at all due to pain. If you can walk it is likely you will be walking with a limp in order to keep off the sore area. It is also likely that your ankle will feel unstable during movement.
What’s really going on inside
There are many different types of tissue in the body, such as bone and muscle. Ligaments, similar to muscle, are considered as soft tissue. When soft tissue is damaged an inflammatory response is triggered. With this, lots of blood rushes to the area causing it to swell. This swelling process is the beginning of soft tissue repair. There may be some bleeding from the damaged tissue and this is what causes the bruising to occur. You might find the bruising extends down to your heel and this wear the blood can pool due to gravity. This will settle over time and with appropriate management.
Acute management of an ankle sprain
After injury the first 72hrs are crucial. What you do to manage your injury during this time could mean the difference between a quick or slow recovery. To promote a good recovery these are some things that you can do:
- Discontinue play immediately if you are playing sport
- Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation
- No Heat, Alcohol, Exercise or Massage
- Avoid anti-inflammatories during this period, paracetamol is a good alternative for pain relief
- Make an appointment with your physio to begin your rehab sooner rather than later
How a physio can help
It is important to remember that after an ankle sprain your risk of re-injury is quite high, especially if it goes untreated. Physiotherapy and rehabilitation have been shown to significantly reduce this risk. Your physiotherapist can help you return to normal function by doing a few things:
- Strength and conditioning program to strengthen muscles around the joint
- Balance and proprioception training to help improve overall function of the joint
- Graded and safe return to sport/work to minimize your time out of action and prevent re-injury.
- Taping and bracing techniques for ongoing management when returning to sport/work
Once you have completed your rehab, and you are cleared to return to activity, you should feel confident in your ability to move again and do what you love.