We’ve probably all rolled our ankle at one time or other, though perhaps not seriously.
What Is A Sprained Ankle?
Ankle sprains are common injuries and can happen simply by ‘twisting’ or ‘rolling’ your ankle when stepping on an uneven surface.
They commonly occur in sport with running on uneven ground, sudden changes of direction, or landing unevenly from a jump.
Ankle sprains typically involve the ankle rolling inwards (inversion), which causes overstretching and in more serious cases, tearing of the ligaments on the outside of your ankle (see picture).
You may feel pain on the outside of your ankle and may start to see bruising and swelling around the area.
What Should I Do After I Sprain My Ankle?
The following 3 phases are used to treat ankle sprains to help with a fast recovery and prevent re-occurance.
Phase 1: Reduce Pain, Bruising and Swelling
Phase 1 involves resting and protecting your ankle to help reduce the pain and swelling.
Follow the RICE principles:
Rest – give your ankle a break! Avoid walking on it too much, too soon.
Ice – to help keep the swelling and bruising down, ice on and off for 10-20minutes at a time.
Compression – this helps to reduce swelling, as well as supporting your ankle.
Elevation – pop your foot up on a chair/cushion so that it is above your waist.
To help reduce your pain, swelling and get you back to walking normally as soon as possible, physiotherapy can help with:
– ankle joint mobilisations,
– dry needling,
– taping and
– soft tissue massage.
Phase 2: Restore Normal Ankle Movements
Next, it is important to restore your ankles range of movement and strength, as well as your control and balance.
Your physiotherapist treatment will include:
- Joint mobilisations and manual therapy
- Range of motion
- Strengthening – to help you build up the muscles around your foot and ankle
- Stretching to surround muscles (eg stretching your calves)
- Balance and control exercises
Phase 3: Return To Sport and Prevent Re-Injury
Evidence shows that ankle sprains have a high incidence of reinjury, which is why it is important to do your rehab!
Once we have restored your movement and strength we can start you on some more sport specific exercises (i.e. making sure you can jump/hop/run/change direction).
These exercises will be prescribed at an appropriate time for you in your recovery.
Once you are completing them without limitations, you’ll be good to go for your sport or active lifestyle!
Exercises To Help Your Ankle Sprain Recovery
Below are some examples exercises that your physio may prescribe to help your recovery.
Range of Motion
- Moving of your foot up/down and turning your sole in/out
- Draw the alphabet with your toes
- Towel calf stretch – sit with your knee straight and loop a towel around the ball of your foot. Gently pull the towel back towards you until you feel a stretch in your calf.
- Standing calf stretch 1 – stand facing a wall with one leg (injured ankle) behind the other and toes pointing straight ahead. Keep your heels down and your back leg straight. Slowly bend your front leg until you feel a stretch in your calf of your back leg.
- Standing calf stretch 2 – stand facing a wall with one leg (injured ankle) behind the other and toes pointing straight ahead. Keep your heels down. Slowly bend your back leg until you feel a stretch in your lower calf of your back leg.
- Tandem standing (toes to heel standing)
- Single leg standing
Return to sport
- Change of direction
Your physio may also tape your ankle during appointments to help support your ankle as you return to “normal” walking and sport.
You can find examples of different ankle taping techniques here.
(Scroll down to “Ankle Taping Techniques”)
Remember, this is meant as general advice and we recommend you consult your physiotherapist for specific advice and treatment to your situation.
If you have any questions or comments, please email us.