The most common form of ankle injury is a sprained ankle – more commonly a sprain to the ligaments on the outside or lateral aspect of the ankle, caused by accidentally twisting or turning your ankle in an awkward way. It’s usually caused by a traumatic incident, such as a sudden change of direction while playing sport, or a slip off the edge of a curb. When the ligaments on the side of the ankle become overstretched, torn or even ruptured, the ankle will swell, and bruising may appear which can track down the foot to the toes. It is painful and initially will be difficult to walk on. Strength and mobility of the ankle, walking pattern and balance are all affected and will need to be rehabilitated to fully recover from the injury.
The first line of treatment involves the acronym RICE. Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation, particularly in the first 48 to 72 hours.
- Avoid walking on your ankle too much in the first day or two. You may find using elbow crutches helps in this initial phase
- Inflammation is a normal response to injury, but to minimise the amount of swelling place some ice, wrapped in a damp cloth, over the swollen area for 10-15 minutes. It is important to check your ankle regularly as ice can burn the skin.
- A simple tubi-grip or ankle support can help to reduce the swelling in this initial phase. It will also give the joint stability while the ligaments are weakened.
- Resting with the foot above hip height will also help manage the symptoms of swelling. It is also helpful to do some very simple movements of the ankle such as making small circles with the foot to keep some movement and help the calf muscles work to reduce the swelling.
You may find medication such as use of oral non-steroidal anti-inflammatories or painkillers help manage your symptoms in the first week.
The next line of treatment following the first week of the injury should include the following:
- Exercises to strengthen the muscles around the ankle and the affected leg.
- Retraining your walking pattern so other body parts (such as your knees or back) don’t start to hurt because you are walking weirdly!
- Balance retraining. This is one part of rehab that people will often get slack about because their ankle feels so much better. However, if this area is neglected there is a good chance you will re-sprain the ankle again. So, make sure you stick at it and do your balance exercises.
Two exercises that can get you started on the right path after the first week are:
- Stand with your feet at hips-width apart and arms by your sides.
- Keeping your knees straight, lift both heels and rise on to your toes.
- Return to the starting position, controlling the movement as you lower both heels to the ground.
Single leg balance with kick
- Start in the standing position.
- Stand on the affected leg and raise the other foot off the floor.
- Kick the raised leg forward, then sideways and backwards as you maintain your balance.
- Stay close to a solid chair or wall if needed.
Hope this helps, Deb