The common ankle sprain: what is it?
Ankle sprains generally occur when the ligaments on the outer side of the ankle are damaged or torn when you ‘go over’ on your ankle. This is also known as an inversion injury. This can cause pain, swelling and restricted movement, and can prevent you from taking part in your usual activities. Sometimes the inner (or medial) ligaments are damaged (known as an eversion injury).
Initially, RICE. That is Rest, Ice (20 minutes every 2 hours for the first few days), Compression and Elevation (ideally above the level of your heart to help decrease any swelling). You may require paracetamol for pain relief.
The common ankle sprain: how do I manage my injury?
Early assessment is important to rule out anything more serious, such as a fracture. If your pain and swelling are severe, your physiotherapist may refer you for an X-ray. They will also give you guidelines for safe activities and expected time to return to your sport. Initially, your ankle may be taped up to prevent any further damage and you will be started on some strengthening and range of movement exercises.
The common ankle sprain: will my ankle fully recover?
Damaged ligaments can take up to 12 weeks to heal, so an effective rehabilitation programme is essential for complete recovery. You may lose strength, stability and the ability to balance following an ankle injury so physiotherapy treatment will focus on addressing these issues. As the ligaments in your ankle may be permanently stretched, you might require long-term taping or a protective brace, especially if you play a sport such as netball or rugby, to prevent a recurrence. Sometimes swelling will persist long after the injury has healed. This is due to gravity and the distance between your ankle and the body’s ‘pump’, the heart.