What Is An Ankle Sprain? An ankle sprain is an injury that causes a stretch or tear of one or more ligaments in the ankle joints and is caused by a twisting motion of your ankle. Your foot usually turns in or under but may turn to the outside. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that connect the bones at the joint. Sprains may be graded I, II, or III depending on their severity: A Grade I ankle sprain produces pain with minimal damage to the ligaments. A Grade II sprain causes more ligament damage and mild looseness of the joint. A Grade III sprain results in complete tearing of the ligament(s) involved and the joint is left very loose or unstable. Sometimes sprains are just classified as mild or severe, depending on the amount of ligament damage. Most sprains occur on the outside of the ankle, but they can occur on the inside as well.
The symptoms of an ankle sprain include:
- 1. Mild aching to sudden pain.
- 2. Swelling.
- 3. Discoloration.
- 4. Inability to move the ankle properly.
- 5. Pain in the ankle even when you are not putting any weight on it.
How Is It Diagnosed? An ankle sprain is diagnosed by having a doctor review how the injury occurred and consider your symptoms during an exam. During the examination, he or she may ask for x-rays to be taken of your ankle.
Ankle Sprain Treatment: Ankle sprain treatment may include:
- 1. Applying ice packs or ice wraps to your ankle for 2o to 30 minutes every 3 to 4 hours for the first 2 to 3 days or until the pain goes away. Thereafter, ice your ankle at least once a day until the other symptoms are gone.
- 2. Elevating your ankle by placing a pillow underneath your foot. Try to keep your ankle above the level of your heart.
- 3. Wrapping an elastic bandage around your ankle to keep the swelling from getting worse.
- 4. Wearing a lace-up ankle brace or an ankle stirrup.
- 5. Using crutches until you can walk without pain.
- 6. Taking anti-inflammatory medication or other pain medication prescribed by your doctor.
- 7. Doing ankle exercises to improve your ankle strength and range of motion. The exercises will help you return to your normal activity or sports.
Rarely, severe ankle sprains with complete tearing of the ligaments need surgery. After surgery your ankle will be in a cast or a walking boot for 4 to 8 weeks. The length of recovery depends on many factors: 1)age 2)health 3)severity of injury and previous injuries to that joint. Remaining consistent with the above ankle sprain treatment can improve your chance of making a full recovery.
When Can I Return To My Sport Or Activity? The goal of rehabilitation is to return you to your sport or activity as soon as is safely possible. If you return to soon, you may worsen your injury, which could lead to permanent damage. Everyone recovers from an ankle sprain injury at a different rate. Return to your sport or activity will be determined by how soon your ankle recovers, not by how many days or weeks it has been since your ankle sprain occurred. Some people return after a few days after the cast is removed, some in several weeks. Your ankle will be healing while you're doing your ankle rehabilitation exercises. These exercises will help improve your ankle strength, range of motion, and joint position awareness. Your physical therapist will return you to full sport or activity when, starting from the top of the list and progressing to the end, each of the following is true:
- 1. You have full range of motion in the injured leg compared to the uninjured leg.
- 2. You have full strength of the injured leg compared to the uninjured leg.
- 3. You can jog straight ahead without pain or limping.
- 4. You can sprint straight ahead without pain or limping.
- 5. You can do 45-degree cuts, first at half-speed, then at full-speed.
- 6. You can do 20-yard figures-of-eight, first at half-speed, then at full-speed.
- 7. You can do 90-degree cuts, first at half-speed, then at full-speed.
- 8. You can do 10-yard figures-of-eight, first at half -speed, then at full-speed.
- 9. You can jump on both legs without pain and you can jump on the injured leg without pain. You may want to consider wearing an ankle brace before returning to full sport participation.
Ankle Sprain Exercises: As soon as you can tolerate pressure on the ball of your foot, you should begin stretching your ankle using a towel for an easy, effective stretch while sitting on a couch or the floor. When this stretch is too easy, try the standing calf stretch and soleus stretch. You can do exercises 4 and 5 when your ankle swelling has stopped increasing. You may do the ankle sprain exercises 6 through 9 when you can stand on your injured ankle without pain. If you're experiencing stiffness, try using an ankle heating pad to warm up the joint before conducting these exercises. These exercises will help you regain flexibility and strength following an ankle sprain:
- 1) Towel stretch: Sit on a hard surface with your injured leg stretched out in front of you. Loop a towel around the ball of your foot and pull the towel toward your body, keeping your knee straight. Hold this position for 30 seconds. Repeat 3 times.
- 2) Standing calf stretch: Facing a wall, put your hands against the wall at about eye level. Keep your injured leg back, the uninjured leg forward, and the heel of your injured leg on the floor. Turn your injured foot slightly inward (as if you were pigeon-toed) Slowly lean into the wall until you feel a stretch in the back of your calf. Hold for 30 seconds. Do this several times a day.
- 3) Standing soleus stretch: Stand facing a wall with your hands at about chest level. With both knees slightly bent and the injured foot back, gently lean into the wall until you feel a stretch in your lower calf. Once again, angle the toes of your injured foot slightly inward and keep your turn to the starting position. Repeat 3 times.
- 4) Ankle range of motion: You can do this exercise sitting or lying down. Pretend you are writing each of the letters of the alphabet with your foot. This will move your ankle in all directions. Do this twice.
- 5) Resisted dorsiflexion with resistance band: Sitting with your leg straight and your foot near a door, wrap the band around the ball of your foot. Anchor the other end of the band to the door by tying a knot in the band, slipping it between the door and the frame, and closing the door. Pull your toes toward your face. Return slowly to the starting position. Repeat 10 times. Do 3 sets of 10.
- 6) Resisted plantar flexion with band: Sitting with your leg outstretched, loop the middle section of the band around the ball of your foot. Hold the ends of the tubing in both hands. Gently press the ball of your foot down and point your toes, stretching the band. Return to the starting position. repeat 10 times. Do 3 sets of 10.
- 7) Resisted eversion: Sit with your legs out straight and cross your uninjured leg over your injured ankle. Wrap the band around the ball of your injured foot and then loop it around your uninjured foot so that the band is anchored at one end. Turn your injured foot inward and upward. This will stretch the band. Return to the starting position. Repeat 10 times. Do 3 sets of 10.
- 8) Heel raises: While standing, balance yourself on both feet behind a chair. Rise up on your toes, Hold 5 seconds and then lower yourself down. Repeat 10 times. Do 3 sets of 10.
- 9) Toe raises: Stand in a normal weight-bearing position. Rock back on your heels so that your toes come off the ground. Hold this position for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times. Do 3 sets of 10.
- 10) Single leg balance: Stand without any support and attempt to balance on your injured leg. Begin with your eyes open and then try to perform the exercise with your eyes closed. Hold the single leg position for 30 seconds. Repeat 3 times.
- 11) Jump rope: Jump rope landing on both legs 5 minutes, then only on the injured leg for 5 minutes.
- 12) Wobble board: This exercise is important to restore balance and coordination to your ankle. Make a wobble board by cutting a circle of plywood two feet across. Place it on top of a 5 or 10 pound weight from a barbell set. Stand on top of the wobble board. Balance first on both legs, then on the injured leg. Do this for 2 to 5 minutes 3 times a day. You may need to hold onto a chair or table for balance.
You can help prevent an ankle sprain or fracture by following these guidelines: 1) Wear proper shoes that fit correctly when you exercise. 2)Gently stretch before and after physical activities. 3)Avoid sharp turns and quick changes in direction and movement. 4)Consider taping or wearing an ankle brace for strenuous sports, especially if you have a previous injury.
All material provided is designed for information purposes only and should not be used to replace the care of a health care professional. Do not rely on any of the information for diagnosis or treatment. It is recommended that you visit a qualified health care professional for individual and personal attention.