By Ron Handshoe, MSPT
ApexNetwork Physical Therapy
With spring sports gearing up, it seems like a good time to discuss ankle sprains and what steps to make the healing process easier and faster.
There are more than 3 million cases of ankle sprain reported each year in the U.S. A sprain occurs when the ligaments that stabilize a joint (in this case, the ankle) are stretched and/or torn due to an aggressive inward or outward turning of the foot.
Most sprains are the result of the foot turning inward, such as when stepping on an uneven surface or landing wrong while walking, running or jumping.
Ankle sprains can range from very mild to severe. Severe ankle sprains can even result in what is known as an avulsion fracture of the fibula, the smaller, non-weight bearing long bone located on the outside of each leg. In an avulsion fracture, a small part of the bone attached to the tendon or ligament gets pulled away from the main part of the bone.
Because ankle sprains vary in severity, there is a sprain grading system that aids in the proper diagnosis. The grades are:
• Grade 1 (Mild) Sprain: Light over stretching of the ligaments with microscopic tears. The ankle will have some soreness with minimal swelling.
• Grade 2 (Moderate) Sprain: Results in partial, but not complete tears of the ligaments that stabilize the ankle joint. Patients will have swelling and bruising in the foot and ankle along with moderate to severe tenderness to touch.
• Grade 3 (Severe) Sprain: This is a complete tear of one or more of the ligaments that stabilize the ankle. Excessive swelling and bruising will be present; tenderness will be severe.
Treatment of ankle sprain begins with RICE:
R = Rest
I = Ice for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, three to four times per day
C = Compression such as an ace wrap (not too tight)
E = Elevation is important to help decrease the swelling
We recommend a visit to the doctor or urgent care center if you experience an ankle sprain that presents with swelling and bruising or if walking is painful. X-rays may need to be taken to rule out a fracture and determine the next course of action.
In many cases, individuals with ankle sprain are referred to physical therapy. Physical therapy is very important in that it can help you return to work, sports or recreation as soon and safely as possible.
Physical therapy for ankle sprain
During the first visit, the physical therapist will evaluate the sprain and the patient’s range of motion. Patients are given tips on decreasing swelling and pain and taught exercises to help regain range of motion. Patients are monitored while exercising to ensure the maximum benefit.
As the patient’s range of motion begins to return and pain decreases, they are given exercises to strengthen the ankle joint, helping to restore what was lost as a result of the sprain. Later, as the patient becomes more comfortable with putting weight on the injured ankle, they are shown exercises to improve balance. This help improve the proprioception (knowing where the ankle is in space) of the joint, helping to decrease the risk of a future sprain.
Depending on the severity of the ankle sprain, rehabilitation can last from two to 12 weeks. Beginning physical therapy early can help the patient recover more quickly and completely, while reducing the possibility of future sprains.
Contact us at ApexNetwork Physical Therapy (859) 412-4057 to set up an appointment for a free screening or a full evaluation. Let us get you on the road to recovery so you can live life!
Handshoe is a licensed physical therapist and regional manager for ApexNetwork PT. With offices in Mt. Sterling, Frenchburg, Stanton and now Morehead, Ky., ApexNetwork PT specializes in helping people get back to the activities they love. Stop by a clinic or visit us online at ApexNetworkPT.com. We’d be proud to welcome you into our family.
ApexNetwork Physical Therapy locations in Kentucky:
814 Highway 36
272 Kroger Center Drive
513 Maysville Road
156 W. College Ave.