What is it?
A lateral ankle sprain is a rather common injury where the ankle rolls out. Placing undue stress on the structures on the lateral (outside) of the ankle. When this happens there can be damage to the tissue that supports that side of the ankle. This is commonly called rolling your ankle.
What have I injured?
There can be a number of structures that are damaged when rolling the ankle, bone, ligaments, muscles and tendons. Physio assessment can be helpful in the first instance to determine if a fracture is possible, as this will require quite a different management initially.
The most common tissue damage is the ligaments, tendons and the cartilage of the ankle joint. All those tissues have slightly different properties and different healing times. As the process of rehab goes along the extent to which each has sustained damaged will become more clear.
How do I treat it?
Initially we want to protect and calm down inflammation without completely restricting movement. Here are a couple of practical tips for the first 24-48 hours.
Compression – this could be a bandage or a tubed bandage. The idea here is to reduce swelling around the ankle. Ice is also sometimes suggested for swelling and may help reduce the pain as well.
Protect – depending on the severity it is ok to do a bit of moving around, it is important tho not to damage the already fragile tissue at this time. Sometimes a bit of taping or a supportive brace is necessary for day to day activity.
Ice – Ice doesn’t reduce swelling as much as we once believed but it may make a small difference and may also reduce some of the pain sensation.
Elevation – keep the foot up and let gravity do its work.
After a day or two swelling and pain should start to subside This is the time to start some movement and exercise. Range of motion needs to be addressed early to avoid long term losses. A physio can be helpful for this.
How long will it take to get better?
It always depends on the severity, tissues involved and what you are looking to get back to doing. If you wish to return to sport a good set of physical tests can be a good way to measure and plan when you are ready to progress or return to sport.
If not rehabbed properly the ankle can become instable or weak. This can lead to pain, recurrent sprain or reduced range of motion or function. A well tracked and progressed rehab program will ensure you get the best out of your body and prevent future ankle sprains.
If you have a new or ongoing ankle injury come in and have a chat to one of our physios to discuss the best way to manage it or progress your performance.