Ankle Sprains: Rehabilitation for “Difficult Ankle”

The ankle joint is one of the most vulnerable to injury through participation in sport and exercise. One of the most common sports injuries is ankle sprain, most commonly involving the lateral ligaments. Such injuries are accompanied by repeated strain episodes, instability of the joint, and as a result, reduces physical activity participation. Although extremely common, ankle sprains usually respond to conservative management, but many apparent ankle sprains do not respond to treatment and remain painful.

Ankle Sprains

Foot twisting, rolling, or turning beyond normal positions can lead to ankle sprains. The landing transmits great force. You’re at risk of getting sprained ankle if your foot is planted unevenly on a surface, beyond the normal force of stepping. The ligaments have a tendency to stretch beyond normal range in an abnormal position.

When you sustain ankle sprains, you may experience these symptoms:

  • Pain or soreness over the injured ligaments
  • Loss of function
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Difficulty walking
  • Stiffness in the joint

The symptoms may vary in intensity, as well as the severity of the sprain. If you have a sprain that is severe, you may experience popping sensation, followed by immediate swelling and the inability to walk or perform in sports properly.

“The Difficult Ankle”

80% of acute ankle sprains reach full recovery with conservative management. However, the remaining 20% of acute ankle sprains develop chronic symptoms resulting in chronic ankle instability.

Repeated ankle sprains often lead to chronic ankle instability. Each subsequent sprain leads to further weakening of the ligaments, resulting in more instability and the potential of developing additional problems in the ankle.

Chronic ankle instability usually develops following an ankle sprain that has not fully recovered or was not rehabilitated completely. Because the ligaments are torn when you sprain your ankle, your ability to balance is often affected. It needs proper rehabilitation to strengthen the muscles around the ankle and “retrain” the tissues within the ankle that affect balance. If not treated properly, it can result in repeated ankle sprains.

Treatment and Rehabilitation

Proper treatment and rehabilitation exercises are very important for ankle sprains. Before you return to sports and other activities that stress your ankle, it is better to wait until you can use your ankle without pain.

Most cases of ankle sprain progresses well through rehabilitation process with reduced pain and swelling and improved function.

If an ankle sprain isn’t well rehabilitated, it may lead to persistent pain and loss of function. The common problems associated with inadequate rehabilitation are a loss of range of motion in the ankle joint, weakness in the peroneal muscles and impaired proprioception. A good management should include restoration of full range of motion by mobilisation of the ankle joint, a programme of strengthening exercises for the peoneal muscles, and proprioceptive exercises.

While having a basic template to follow for the rehabilitation of ankle injuries is important, it remains a fact that individuals respond differently to exercises. Because no ankle injuries are the same in different people, rehabilitation should be well-structured and individualised. Each program needs to be modified to fit your needs.

You can rely on a Perth physiotherapist to give you effective treatment program and rehabilitation for your difficult ankle. Call us today at 9272 7359!