An ankle sprain is one of the most common injuries both in sport and everyday life. They vary hugely in type and severity: from stretching the ligaments and supporting structures around the joint, to partial or complete rupture of one or more ligaments. These ligaments are crucial for stability and movement and their damage can cause instability and pain. This is compounded by the fact that once sprained, you are more likely to re-sprain your ankle again.
If you do have a serious sprain, with bruising and swelling, it may be hard to know what to do next. Do you use ice and compression or visit A&E? The following are a great set of screening questions that may help:
1. Are you unable to walk/limp 4 steps?
2. Do you have pain around your malleoli? (the bony protrusions each side of your ankle)
3. Do you have tenderness/pain around the base of your 5th metatarsal? (the bony area half way between your heel and little toe)
4. Do you have tenderness/pain around the navicular bone? (the bony area on the inside area of your foot)
If the answer to any of these questions is ‘yes’, you need an x-ray. If not, you don’t. To find these points on your ankle, check out this great clip from The Prehab Guys.
Managing the injury
Recent advice suggests that, after correct diagnosis, a short time of immobilisation may be helpful in relieving pain and swelling, but after this expires you need to get moving again. The British Journal of Sports Medicine (BJSM) suggests “supervised exercise-based programmes are preferred ….as they stimulate the recovery of functional joint stability”. So if you are going to get active safely, what should you do?
First, find a good physiotherapist. Get a recommendation from a friend or a referral from your GP. If you want to find out more, check out the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) website to find out how they could improve your recovery.
The Rehab Scientist has some great tools if you are recovering from an ankle sprain. These focus on balance, co-ordination and proprioception (or knowing where your body is in space):
· Mobilising the ankle into a deep bend (or dorsiflexion)
· Non-weight bearing external and internal rotation with a resistance band (Sitting and turning your ankle out and in)
· Single leg squats with a focused movement pattern (in this case lines radiating out in a circle to reach in all directions)
These exercises and movements stabilise and strengthen the ankle, whilst rebuilding balance and endurance, reducing the chance of future sprains.
For further information about how cooling and compression can help, visit our website www.physiolab.com