Ankle sprain? Treatment to ensure your best outcome:
Ankle sprains are a very common injury. Studies show about 64% of individuals do not seek medical treatment after undergoing an ankle sprain. The individuals that do seek treatment usually visit an urgent care or emergency room where they are typically given information only on basic management, rest, ice, compression, elevation, and immobilization. Very few individuals seek physical therapy as a treatment for ankle sprains. Evidence demonstrates those that did not seek physical therapy treatment for an ankle sprain have a 75% probability of developing chronic ankle instability, which can progress to ankle osteoarthritis. In addition, those who did not participate in physical therapy reported decreased function during daily activities, a higher instance of ankle sprain reoccurrence, and feeling like their ankle could give way. Due to these complications, ankle sprains should be treated with more significance and individuals should seek medical attention to provide appropriate management.
Treatment can prevent ankle disorders by facilitating tissue healing and restoring joint stability. Without treatment, exercises to increase joint stability are typically not performed which leads to individuals often experiencing laxity in their ankle joints that can exist for weeks after the initial ankle sprain. This joint laxity is often secondary to improper ligament healing or ligament elongation. Also, joints have a sensorimotor system which relays joint position to the brain. Impairments in the system often occur with an ankle sprain leading to balance issues which can cause falls leading to other injuries. Physical therapy prescribed balance training programs can improve balance and remedy these sensorimotor deficits following an ankle sprain.
Early exercises are needed to help restore optimal function after an ankle sprain. Physical therapy exercises following an ankle sprain focus on improving ankle range of motion, strength, stability, and balance. By placing the correct stresses on the healing tissues helps them remodel and strengthen to prevent ankle instability. Exercise decreases healing time following an ankle sprain as immobilization of the ankle in a boot can lead to negative consequences. Immobilization in a boot can decrease ankle range of motion and lead to muscular weakness which take longer to get back after the boot is removed. There are instances where a boot can be necessary but in most ankle sprains movement is the best treatment. A physical therapist can help determine if movement is safe without immobilization.
Another complication, swelling is often present with an ankle sprain. Exercise can help push the swelling out of the ankle and improve the healing process. In addition to exercise, physical therapy modalities and manual therapy can decrease pain and swelling, which helps increase function. Overall, increasing movement following an ankle sprain improves outcomes and decreases the time the healing process takes to get the individual back to daily life. If you sprain your ankle, consider physical therapy as a treatment to get you back to the activities you love.