A sprain is stretching and or tearing of ligaments. Sprained ankles are very common injuries. It is the talo-fibula ligament that is most commonly damaged, which is the middle of the three ligaments on the other ankle. Bad sprains may also cause damage to the calcanao-fibula ligament which is furtherÃÂ towards the back of the heel. Damage may also be done to tendons, bone and other joint tissues.
Ankle sprains can be graded as first, second or third degree with third being the most severe where at least one ankle ligament is fully ruptured. Grade one ankle sprains only cause mild to moderate pain and swelling and usually heal within a couple of weeks. Grade two injuries cause more swelling and possibly bruising, ankle movement is considerably reduced and weight bearing is painful. These tend to take 4-6 weeks to recover from.ÃÂ Grade three injuries cause considerable pain, swelling and bruising, severe pain on weight bearing and moving the ankle and feelings of instability. This kind of serious injury may take 2-4 months to heal.
Treatment of a Sprained Ankle
The treatment of an ankle sprain is very similar regardless of the severity of the injury. It is just the timescales that change.
Initial treatment should focus on reducing pain and swelling using cold therapy, compression and elevation. Your Doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications. Once it is comfortable to do so (usually day 1 to day 5), start simple ankle mobility exercises to regain full range of motion and get the blood pumping through the ankle to aid healing.
Try to return to weight bearing as soon as possible as this will help to remodel the ligaments as they heal. Once you can weight bear, start stretching the calf muscles gently - this shouldn't cause pain. Other treatments which may be useful at this stage include sports massage therapy and electrotherapy such as Ultrasound.
Strengthening can begin with calf raise exercises in a seated position and progress to standing and then single leg calf raises. Resistance band inversion and eversion are also recommended to strengthen the peroneals and tibialis posterior muscles. Proprioception training using wobble boards is highly recommended following an ankle sprain to prevent the injury recurring.
Once returning to sport, ankle supports or braces can be used to help support the ankle adn prevent the twisting over motion which causes so many injuries. Alternatively you can strap the ankle using tape.
Ice packs and wraps are vital following an ankle sprain. Ankle cold wraps are particularly helpful as they offer both cold therapy and compression to effectively reduce swelling. A simple ankle support can also be used to provide compression when not icing.
Resistance bands are ideal for helping to strengthen the muscles surrounding the ankle after an ankle sprain. Calf stretchers will also help you stretch the calf muscles effectively which is really important before returning to sports in order to reduce the risk of future injuries.
If you play sports which require a lot of sudden shanges in direction or jumping, you may wish to wear an ankle support. An ankle support with either straps or some form of metal or plastic support is recommended for sports.