Ankle injuries are fairly regular injuries seen by physiotherapists. The most common injury seen are sprains to lateral/ outside ligaments of the ankle. These ligaments attach the lower bone of the leg (lateral malleolus of the fibula) to the outside of the foot (talus bone). Strain to the outside ligaments usually occur when the foot is rolled inwards e.g. when stepping or running on an uneven surface or when being pushed and rolling the ankle during a contact sport.
What a person will usually notice after rolling the ankle is swelling and bruising around the outside of the ankle. If the sprain is very bad, swelling may almost be immediate.
It is important to try compress and use ice or something cold on the injury soon after it occurs to limit pain and swelling. If unable to take any weight on the foot due to the amount of the pain or if there is severe tenderness over the outer bone of the ankle, X-rays may be required to rule out any fractures around the ankle.
Once any possible fractures are ruled out, initial physiotherapy will aim at reducing pain and swelling as well as maintaining movement of the ankle. It is important that we provide the right environment for optimal healing of the ligament to take place. Treatment at this stage will involve strapping, soft tissue and joint mobilisations.
Once initial healing has taken place, treatment will also aim at regaining strength and balance of the foot and ankle. It is crucial to perform the right kind of strengthening/ balance exercises as this will reduce the chance of re-injury in the future. At this stage, resistance bands and balance equipment is used during rehabilitation.
Depending on the severity of the injury, the final phase of treatment will include sports-specific drills if necessary to get the patient ready to get back to their sport/ active hobbies.