I sprained my ankle, what do I do?

Ankle sprains are very common injuries.  Not just basketball players sprain their ankles.  A simple wrong step, or a misplaced household object can result in rolling your ankle.  There is a lot of helpful information out there about how to recover from this injury.  There is so much information you may feel like you can self treat your injury.  To a certain extent, you can.  You will be able to reduce the swelling, and reduce the pain, and maybe even get it feeling normal again.  However, all of these healing changes are just superficial.  Ankle sprains damage the body’s ability to sense ankle movements and thus their balance.  If you get one ankle sprain, and you don’t properly rehab the injury, you are at a higher risk for re-injury.  Without proper rehab for a sprained ankle individuals place themselves on the path of developing chronic ankle instability.  Going to a doctor of physical therapy to rehab your ankle sprain is easy and the best way to ensure a complete recovery without future complications.

Signs and Symptoms

Chronic ankle instability occurs after an ankle sprain.  As the pain subsides, the unsteadiness or uncertainty in the strength continues.  The ankle instability is noticed the first few weeks and continues into months and even years.  Having had multiple ankle sprains places you at a higher risk for ankle instability.  The most common signs and symptoms are as followed:

  • A sense of weakness in the ankle joint
  • Foot feels as though it my ‘give way’
  • Difficulty walking on uneven surfaces
  • Difficulty walking in heeled shoes

If this list sounds like you, you are encouraged to seek treatment by your doctor of physical therapy.  They will be able to determine if and how other conditions may be involved.  They will create a rehab program specific to you, helping you regain confidence in your ankle, allowing you to return to playing sports, jogging, walking over uneven surfaces (like grass).

For more information on physical therapy service head to www.totalperformancept.com.

What is happening?

The ankle joint has a normal ability to move in all directions.  When an ankle sprain occurs, the ankle bends further than the normal amount.  There are two important parts to an ankle sprain: First, there is immediate damage to the ankle tissue, and then the sprain then affects other joints in the body.  The sprain causes the ligaments and tendons in the ankle to be stretched and injured.  Stretched tissues potentially include a combination of the following, 3 ligaments from the foot to the ankle and tendons in the foot from the calf muscles.  Remember, ligaments attach bone to bone, and tendons attach muscle to bone.  Think of these ligaments and tendons being stretched like plastic that was stretched.  It will take some time to return to its prior, healthy condition.

To explain how an ankle sprain creates poor balance and effects of the body, we need to explain how the body balances itself.  In order to maintain a sense of balance, the brain requires information from the body’s muscles, tendons and ligaments.  This is called “proprioception”.  Proprioception allows us to close our eyes and successfully touch our index fingers together.  Proprioception helps us understand the surface we are standing on.  So when an ankle sprain occurs we damage the tendons’ and ligaments’ ability to properly perform this function.  Without proper rehab, this sense of ankle position does not return, increasing the risk of future, and potentially more serious ankle injuries.  With proper retraining, these functions can be regained and you will be able to safely return to your desired activities.

Physical Therapy

When you come to physical therapy after spraining your ankle, the physical therapist will perform a comprehensive evaluation.  They will take into account how the injury happened and what they find out with their physical examination.  These findings will help them determine if you have a simple ankle sprain, a high ankle sprain or a potential fracture.  They can advise you about wearing a brace and will rehab your injury getting you back to the things you want to do.

When you go to physical therapy for your ankle sprain, the first priority is to reduce the swelling.  This is done through a variety of means.  The therapist will perform hands on therapy to the foot and lower leg, decreasing the swelling.  They will move the ankle in ways not aggravating to the injury to increase the nourishment to the ankle joint and foot joints.  Therapy may utilize a vasoneumatic  that applies cooling, reducing the inflammation, and it also applies pressure, which helps to decrease the swelling in the area.  Decreases in both the inflammation and swelling help to heal the injury and accelerate the recovery.

As the pain and discomfort begin to subside and the tissues regain their integrity physical therapy will start integrating controlled ankle movements.  They will utilize a baps board to retrain your control over your ankle joints.  Performing this along with other exercises designed to improve your balance and the strength of the ankle muscles will create a stable ankle joint.

It is not just important to see your physical therapist early on, but also important for them to monitor your progress throughout your recovery.  They will begin to integrate activities and motions specific to your activity.  Your ankle will be strong along with your confidence in it.  Completing your physical therapy rehab will set the stage for a successful return to whatever it is you’re looking to get back to.

For more information on physical therapy services head to www.totalperformancept.com.


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We Have an Immediate Opening for a Physical Therapist in Harleysville. Resumes Can Be Sent to linda@totalperformancept.com

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