Ankle Sprains

Ankle joints and feet are the link between your body and the ground. If the ankle twists as the foot hits the ground, particularly during a fall, this may cause a sprain. Physiotherapists provide advice and treatment to speed up healing and restore full performance.

What is Ankle Sprain?

The ankle joint is made up of four bones. The shape of each bone helps to make the joint stable. Stability around the joint is increased by the ligaments, which are bands of strong connective tissue that prevent unwanted movement.

When the ankle twists, the ligaments usually prevent the joint from moving too much. An ankle sprain occurs when one of the supporting ligaments is stretched too far or too quickly, causing the ligament's fibres to tear and bleed into the surrounding tissues. This bleeding causes pain then swelling.

Ankle diagram
What Should I Do After a Sprain?

In the first 24 to 72 hours after injury, use the R.I.C.E. method:

Rest: Take it easy, but move within your limit of pain.

Ice: Apply ice for 15 minutes every
2 hours. This helps control pain and bleeding.

Compression: Firmly bandage the entire ankle, foot and lower leg. This reduces swelling.

Elevation: Have your ankle and leg well supported, higher than the level of your heart. This reduces bleeding and swelling. If there is still swelling and pain after 24 hours, visit your local physiotherapist or doctor. Your chances of a full recovery will also be helped if you avoid the H.A.R.M. factors in the first 48 hours.

Heat: Increases swelling and bleeding.

Alcohol: Increases swelling and bleeding.

Running or exercise: Aggravates the injury.

Massage: Increases swelling and bleeding.

Ligament immediately after injury How Can Physiotherapists Help?

Your physiotherapist will examine the sprain to determine the extent of your injury. Prompt physiotherapy treatment will reduce the swelling, making it easier to walk after two or three days. To help you return to normal activity quickly, your physiotherapist can show you how to tape your ankle and give you exercises to improve strength and control. If necessary, your physiotherapist can order an x-ray, or suggest that you see a doctor.

Will I Need a Lot of Treatment?

Your physiotherapist will discuss the injury with you and estimate the number of treatments needed. No two injuries are ever the same. A minor ankle sprain may need between one and four treatments.
Recovery with physiotherapy and R.I.C.E. How Soon Can I Return to Work or Sport?

This will depend on how badly you have damaged the ankle ligament. Returning to work or sport too early can delay healing and prolong recovery.

Bracing and taping may allow early return to sport, but normal ankle ligament strength and muscle control will take longer to return than the time it takes for pain and swelling to subside.

Your physiotherapist can help you plan ways to maintain fitness while your ankle is healing.

Without physiotherapy and R.I.C.E.
Can Ankle Sprains be Prevented?

You can reduce the chance of ankle injury.
bullet Warm up before you exercise. Warm down when you finish.
bullet Wear well-fitting shoes, boots or ankle braces that give good lateral ankle joint support.
bullet Avoid activities on slippery, wet or uneven surfaces, or in areas with poor lighting.
bullet Maintain good general fitness.

Health Rebates

A doctor's referral is not required to see a physiotherapist in private practice. A proportion of treatment costs is rebatable under all higher table insurance schemes.

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Move well. Stay well.
By courtesy of the Australian Physiotherapy Association
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