An ankle sprain is a well-known injury that involves the strain of the ligaments that support the ankle joint. The correct ankle sprains treatment is very important. Most commonly, it is the ligaments on the outside of the ankle that are injured (a lateral ankle sprain), as the ligaments on the inside of the ankle are much broader and stronger. On the outside of your ankle joint, three ligaments attach to the bony knob called your lateral malleolus. The ATFL (anterior talofibular ligament) spans forwards in the direction of your toes. The CFL (calcaneofibular ligament) joins to your heel bone directly under the bony knob. Finally, your PTFL (posterior talofibular ligament) spans towards the back of your heel. On the inside (medial) of your ankle, a larger ligament called the deltoid ligament fans out from the knob on the inside of your ankle to provide strong support.
How to heal a Ankle Sprain
In the initial phase after your injury, following the POLICE protocol (protect, off-load, ice, compression and elevate) can help settle down early symptoms. Complete non-weight bearing is likely not needed, unless the injury is very severe, in which case your physiotherapist will likely refer you for an X-ray to rule out a fracture. You will be able to begin moving your ankle and walking around on your ankle from day one, and this will help you return to activity quicker.
Strengthening and balance exercises
As soon as you are able, your physiotherapist will create a program of exercises to regain movement at the ankle, strengthen the muscles around the ankle (such as the calf), and also work on your joint position sense and confidence with challenging single leg tasks. These balance type exercises are sometimes called neuromuscular exercises, and should be similar to the activity you are returning to (eg, a basketball player should work on jumping, landing and cutting exercises).
Mobilisation and manual therapy
It is important to regain full range of motion after an ankle sprain and also to reduce pain quickly to get back to your desired activity. Your physiotherapist may mobilise around your ankle joint, and use soft tissue work to help with any swelling or muscle tightness.
Taping and bracing
It may be beneficial to have your ankle taped or braced when you return to activity, to help supplement the support of your ligaments and muscles, and to provide confidence using your ankle for full function. Your physiotherapist can show you how to tape your ankle or advise you on what brace to purchase.
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