?What is an Ankle Sprain?
An ankle sprain occurs when you place excessive pressure on the ligaments around your ankle, typically by rolling it outwards (inversion) or inwards (eversion). This can cause the ligaments to overstretch or tear, causing pain and instability around your ankle joint.
In some cases, the sprain occurs when landing from a height (e.g. jumping in sports), landing on an opponent's foot, or missing a step or curb. These can create greater forces down onto the ankle on landing, which can result in more serious sprains or affect a greater number of ligaments.
Signs & Symptoms
After sustaining an ankle sprain, typically there is pain and swelling around the affected area. With time, the swelling may travel down towards the heel or top of your foot. If the ligaments have torn and there has been some bleeding, there is often bruising that may appear over the first day or two.
In more significant sprains, or where a small fracture has also occurred to a bone at your ankle, you may be unable to weight bear and walk in the early stages after your injury.
Appropriate early management is crucial to a speedy and successful recovery. The acronym "POLICE" may be used to guide your first few steps:
Protection: protect the area from further injury by reduce forces or impact as needed
Optimal Loading: offload the area if painful, but early mobility and walking is valuable in recovery where comfortable
Ice: apply ice as needed to assist in swelling management
Compression: apply compression to provide light support and reduce swelling
Elevation: assists in swelling management
Pain relief may be helpful, but it is generally advised that anti-inflammatory medication is avoided for the first 48 hours to reduce bleeding at the site of injury.
In more serious injury, imaging may be required to determine what structures are injured. If you are unable to bear weight on your ankle due to pain (more than a couple of steps), or you have night pain, it is generally recommended that you obtain an x-ray as soon as possible to check for a fracture.
When to Seek Help?
If you have sprained your ankle, seeing your physiotherapist is strongly recommended to assess the degree of injury, provide rehabilitation to restore your strength & balance, and guide your return to daily activities & sport. Ankle sprains also have a high rate of recurrence (re-injury), which can be prevented through completing a structured rehabilitation program and assessing your ankle appropriately before returning to sport.