The ankle joint is one of the most commonly injured parts of the leg. Ligaments in the lateral side of the ankle are sprained when the foot rolls inwards. This is referred to as an inversion injury. This is much more common than an eversion injury whereby the medial ligaments are injured. Ankle sprains can occur for a number of reasons including quick change of direction, falling / tripping or walking on uneven surfaces. The ligament injured in the ankle sprain depends on the direction in which the ankle twists.
Grading of the ankle sprain is given from 1 to 3; 3 being full rupture of the ligament. Depending on the severity of the sprain the ankle should be rested and then progressed into weight bearing activities as pain allows. Significant swelling and bruising may occur in the initial phases but prolonged swelling must be controlled and minimised with proper management. Failure to do so can result in prolonged healing and range of movement loss.
Special receptors in the ligaments of joints give lightening fast responses to the muscles in that joint in response to information regarding joint movements and speed of movement. By doing so, the joint uses muscles to protect itself by bracing when dangerous movements occur. After an ankle sprain, this process is slowed, leaving the ankle joint highly susceptible to further injury.
It is imperative that ankle sprains, no matter how severe, are rehabilitated with proper balance and strength exercises regardless of pain levels. Physiotherapy might include the use of:
- Taping and ankle braces
- Resistance bands for strength
- Range of movement techniques
- Balance exercises on varying surfaces
- Bosu ball exercises
- Pilates reformer exercises
- Functional training