Treating Ankle Sprains: Do You Really Recover From That Sprain?
I came across a study about re-spraining ankles on my lunch break the other day. As a practicing physiotherapist, I understand how difficult treating ankle sprains can be. I tend to a fair few people with similar complaints; “I rolled my ankle”, “I twisted it” and my personal favourite “I’ve always had dodgy ankles”. I found that most people that sprained their ankles were athletes, who trained sports-specifically as well as in the gym, and that’s not all; most of them had sprained their ankles before. So I started to wonder what these enthusiastic sportspeople were forgetting when they trained and what their allied health professionals were missing in their treatment.
The facts about ankle sprains
The facts are that ankle sprains are common and a large fraction of them either re-sprain or do not resolve completely in a year.
The latest research discovered that, in regards to treating ankle sprains , self reported symptoms of pain at rest and re-sprains at three months is a predictor for incomplete recovery at one year! Complete recovery means the injured ankle feels and works the same or better than at pre-injury level. That includes feeling pain free with all daily activities and sport, experiencing no swelling, stiffness or feeling of instability as well as being able to balance on one leg with your eyes open and closed for about half minute (if you can’t do that last bit already, I’d probably start practicing now).
If you’ve had an ankle sprain in the past few months and are still experiencing some of these problems, you might be wondering what you did wrong. Maybe ask yourself the following questions;
Did you see your physio and follow his/her advice on exercise and taking time off sport?
Did you work on your balance and proprioception (that’s the feedback sent by the sensory receptors in your joint to the brain to determine where your joint is in space)?
Question 3 & 4
Were you free of pain, swelling and stiffness as well as confident with your balance when you started playing sport and did you attend that follow up appointment a few weeks later?
If you answered ‘No’ to one or more of those questions, that might be part of the problem.
How Pivotal Motion can help!
Here’s how our friendly team approaches ankle rehabilitation. We observe, assess and diagnose. If we aren’t sure of the severity of the injury, we refer you for a scan. Once we figure out what’s going on at that ankle and the type of sprain you have, we educate you.
As physiotherapists, part of our approach to treating ankle sprains is to tell you what’s occurring at the site of the injury and the effect it will have on your body. We tell you what to do (Relative rest, ice, compression, elevation) and what to avoid (high impact sport or dance, recreational marathon runs, weekend acrobatics, break dancing and the like).
We explain what rehabilitation of an ankle injury involves and the potential of causing further injury if rehab is left incomplete. Most of the time we like to throw big words at you like ‘proprioception’, but the good news is that one of our Brisbane exercise physiologist team members will explain what that means and what you can do to improve it.
Then we do the hands on stuff and show you how to exercise. Ankle rehab is fun! We go all out at the clinic and bring out the big guns- trampolines, balance equipment, balls, resistance bands and the list goes on. The best part is when we get you geared up for sport. Soon enough you’ll get the OK to return to break dancing and we’ll catch up with you in a few weeks to see how you are going.
Why is ankle rehab important?
Looking after your injury and keeping your ankles strong following a sprain is a great way to prevent re-injury and improve your balance. Having said this, if you play contact sport or decide to go barefoot running for the first time on uneven ground this weekend, there is always that possibility of re-injuring. However, the severity of the injury may be greatly reduced by the fact that you worked hard on protecting your joint. Here’s hoping I see you in the corner of the gym working on your single leg balance with your eyes closed! C’mon guys…make your physio proud.