A lateral ankle sprain, also known as an inversion sprain, is the most common injury sustained at the ankle joint. There are three major ligaments that are usually affected, depending on the severity of the sprain and the position of the ankle during injury. Most commonly the foot is turned inward and pointed down.
Many acute lateral ankle sprains are often mismanaged and not properly rehabilitated to their full potential. This may result in chronic lateral ankle pain, weakness, and instability which can cause difficulty returning to sports, running, walking on uneven terrain, and even wearing high heel shoes.
In the first week during the acute phase it is very important to control swelling to prevent the formation of adhesions which can delay healing. An evaluation with a physical therapist can help diagnose the severity of the sprain, which specific ligaments are involved, and if any diagnostic imaging is warranted. Swelling is best controlled by R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression, and elevation). Oral anti-inflammatory may also be used to help minimize inflammation. A physical therapist can also provide modalities such as electrical stimulation and ultrasound, as well as manual therapy mobilization and manipulation techniques to help reduce swelling and inflammation, and improve range of motion. Taping techniques may also be beneficial to improve stability while weight-bearing. Prescription of appropriate exercises to be performed at home is crucial to help improve mobility and decrease swelling.
After two weeks the acute swelling and pain is typically significantly reduced and oftentimes, full mobility has returned to the ankle. At this point, many people falsely assume that the ankle is completely healed and they can return to previous activities. However, many impairments usually remain that are often overlooked. These include strength, stability, balance, and proprioception. Proprioception is our brain’s sense of our body position, which is controlled by feedback provided by receptors in the ligaments. When the ligaments of the ankle are damaged, this mechanism is impaired and can be detrimental to the recovery process. All these factors are important to regain proper foot mechanics with walking, and impact activities such as running, jumping, and sports. A proper rehabilitation program is essential for this to prevent further or recurring injury and chronic pain.
Our licensed physical therapists at Amity Physical Therapy are all qualified to evaluate and treat both acute and chronic lateral ankle pain and help get you back on your feet in a safe and timely manner.
Peter Geloso DPT received his doctorate degree in physical therapy from Elon University in North Carolina. He is a clinician with Amity Physical Therapy in Woodbridge, CT. Amity Physical Therapy is the pre-eminent facility of its kind in the Greater New Haven area with offices in Woodbridge, Hamden and Branford. Call 203-389-4593 or visit www.amitypt.com.