By Bethany Koss, PT
Ankle sprains are one of the most common forms of injuries. We’ve all probably had one at some point in our lives, especially if you are involved in running or sports. They can happen to people of all ages and can occur when someone is running, jumping, or even just walking on uneven surfaces. They occur when the foot twists, turns, or rolls past its normal motion.
The most common is a lateral ankle sprain. This typically happens when you land on a pointed or plantarflexed foot that is also turned in or inverted.
This occurs because these ligaments on the lateral (outside) ankle are weaker than the large medial (inside) deltoid ligament. Ligaments are the elastic tissue that connects bone to bone, and injuries occur when the tissue gets stretched or stressed past their normal range.
There are 3 different grades of ankle sprains that all have varying recovery times based on severity. So just because you sprained your ankle doesn’t mean you’ll always be down for several months!
Grades of ankle sprains:
-Grade 1 sprains occur when there is an injury where the tissue was overstressed and may have a mild tear, but the ankle joint itself is still strong.
-Grade 2 sprains occur when there is more of a severe tear, but the ligament is still attached.
-Grade 3 sprains occur when there is a complete tear in the ligament and it is very weak and unstable.
Treatment for ankle sprains:
-Grade 1: Use the R.I.C.E. method: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Avoiding or limiting walking on it is recommended for a couple days.
-Grade 2: Use the R.I.C.E. method and an NSAID of some sort (Aleve, Ibuprofen, Advil) to help with the pain and inflammation. You also may want to avoid walking on it for a couple days and use a compression sleeve or brace to help support the ankle while you are on it.
-Grade 3: Use the R.I.C.E method along with NSAIDs. Walking on it without a walking boot is not recommended. These sprains can be treated conservatively, but occasionally may require surgery as well.
How to avoid ankle sprains:
-Wear proper shoes. Avoid running or playing any sports in flip flops or shoes that don’t fit.
-Warm up prior to running or sports.
-Be aware of surroundings and the terrain you are walking on. Be aware of uneven surfaces, curbs, stairs, or holes, etc.
-Strengthen your ankle. There are 4 basic exercises that we give patients to help strengthen the muscles that support the ankle in the video below:
If you have any questions concerning your ankle sprain, please see your physician or your physical therapist. There are many exercises that can help strengthen your ankle besides the 4 basics, so your physical therapist can help guide you through an individualized treatment program and can also screen out your hips to see if they might be contributing to your ankle problems as well. We are the movement specialists. Let us help move you in the right direction.