Whilst our ankles are relatively small joints, they have to work hard to keep us walking, running and jumping (for joy!). The ankle is responsible for both weight-bearing and mobility and as a result the ankle ligaments are susceptible to injury.
An ankle sprain is a stretch or tear in one, or more, of the outside (or lateral) ligaments.
What do I do immediately after it happens?
Immediately after injury, and for at least the following 3 days, you must pay the PRICE…
PROTECT: Protect the injured tissue from undue stress and avoid ALL movements in the same direction as when the injury occured.
REST: Unload the joint (take the weight off it) for the first 72 hours after injury. Moderate loading with walking or standing should be attempted if able but little often is best.
ICE: Ice is an amazing natural healer and a great short-term pain reducer. It is also believed to have a beneficial effect in reducing swelling and promoting healing. The optimal amount of time to apply ice is around 10-15 minutes in bony areas such as the ankle. It can be applied as often as desired to achieve pain relief, ideally every 1-2 hours. Full submersion of the foot and ankle within iced water can be used as an additional method for management, utilising the time to also mobilise the ankle throughout.
COMPRESSION: This is advised for the first 72 hours, but only while your foot isn’t elevated. The compression can be firm as long as it doesn’t cause pins and needles or any loss of feeling around the joint.
ELEVATION: Reduces the flow of blood to the area which helps reduce swelling. Elevation is definitely recommended in the first 72hours after injury. However remove any compression while your foot is elevated unless you are wearing just a light compression bandage.
When following PRICE it is also important to avoid HARM(HARM is an acronym for Heat, Alcohol, Running, Massage).
A phase of ‘hands-on’ treatment with your manual therapist, to mobilise and strengthen the joint is crucial to ensure you return to full function and prevent future injury. Adequate preparation for any physical activity is key and weight-bearing should progress gently. Your ankle, and the rest of your body, will thank you for it!
Below are some exercises, in three phases, that will help with rehabilitation. Progression through these are best discussed with your manual therapist to ensure maximum chances of a successful recovery – remember slow and steady wins the race!