What is an ankle sprain?
Ankle sprains occur when the ligaments supporting the ankle are overstretched and/or torn. This most commonly occurs when the foot turns in and pressure is placed on the outside ligaments of the ankle. This, however, can less frequently occur on the inside of the ankle too. This type of injury is common on unstable surfaces or can even happen when quickly changing direction such as when playing sport.
How do I best manage my ankle sprain initially?
The best management of an ankle sprain in the early stages is using the R.I.C.E. principle. The goal of this treatment is to minimize the swelling occurring around your ankle and to reduce tissue damage. This type of injury is best managed when this treatment is extended out for at least 72 hours. The R.I.C.E. principle encourages rest, ice, compression and elevation. This means:
1. Offload your ankle as much as possible – if you are having trouble weight bearing you may wish to use crutches
2. Place ice to the ankle with a protective barrier for no longer than 20 minutes every 2 hours – do not place the ice directly against your skin
3. Keep a compression bandage or sports tape over your ankle – ensure this bandage is not too tight that blood can still flow through to your toes as the swelling in your ankle can fluctuate
4. Keep your foot up when resting or sitting
Anti-inflammatory drugs can often help to minimize swelling and help you manage your pain. If you are unsure whether you can take these medications, please discuss this with your treating doctor.
After your initial pain has settled and you are more comfortable putting weight through your ankle, you can start some gentle activity such as walking to encourage movement and minimize stiffness in your ankle.
How do I know if I need an X-ray?
Some ankle injuries are more concerning than others. Most ankle sprains, however do not require imaging.
There are key guidelines that your GP, emergency doctor and Physiotherapist will utilize to ensure unnecessary X-rays are not prescribed. Speak with your doctor or Physiotherapist to determine whether this is the best management for you.
Do I need to involve my Physiotherapist?
If your ankle sprain prolongs more than a few days, it is best to have a review with a physiotherapist. In the sporting population, however it is advised you do see your physiotherapist to ensure safe return into your sport.
Your physiotherapist can aid you in the recovery of your sprain by increasing your joint movement, helping you to minimize your swelling as well as improve your strength and control of your ankle to reduce the chance of re-injury.
Disclaimer: This is not medical advice and is used for educational purposes only. If you are having pain or health related complaints, please seek out a licensed healthcare professional.