How to treat an ankle sprain

Acute Sprain Management with Osteopathy 

A high percentage of the population will experience or already has experienced an ankle sprain at some point in time. For anyone that has had this happen to them (and most suffer this injury multiple times) you know how painful it is. When we “roll” our ankle there is a stretching or tearing of the surrounding ligaments which support the joint. This causes pain, inflammation and instability (more likely to happen again). Majority of ankle sprains are the type where we fall over the outside of our foot (inversion sprain), but we can also see the opposite occur. Not all ankle sprains are the same and it is important to know the difference so you can identify when it’s necessary to seek treatment.

Grading the ankle sprain 

Grade I – Typically it involves a stretching of the ligaments, pain, swelling and minor loss of function. Recovery is around 2-4 weeks (depending on severity and sport).

Grade II – Torn ligament/s (sometimes multiple ligaments are involved), increased pain and swelling with reduced function. Recovery is around 6-8 weeks (depending on severity and sport).

Grade III – Is a complete rupture of the ligament/s (usually ATFL) with a severe loss of function in the short term (surgery may be required, though this is quite rare). Recovery is around 10-12 weeks+ (depending on severity and sport).

Symptoms of an ankle sprain

After rolling your ankle you can expect to have pain/tenderness in and around the area (usually next to the outside ankle bone) and some bruising or swelling is common. The first initial injury may take longer to recover from than subsequent injuries. Ankle stiffness is a common symptom seen in the days to weeks following the injury, so it is important to reduce this as soon as possible. Depending on severity you may find your ability to function is impacted, it is important to seek advice and treatment to get you back out on the field as quick as possible. 

Prevention of ankle injuries – 

Whilst you cannot prevent an injury from happening you can definitely reduce the chances of injuries occurring. Simple ankle mobility exercises (calf stretch, foam rolling etc..) as well as some balance exercises are a good starting point in the prevention on this type of injury. Other preventative strategies you can incorporate include – wearing the correct footwear, using an ankle brace if stability is an issue in the short term (until you can improve the strength).  

Treatment: How do we treat an ankle sprain?

For the most ankle sprains conservative treatment (osteo and rehab) will be more than enough to help in the short term as well as long term. But for a severe grade III injury may require further assessment by a sports doctor or specialist. Otherwise for the first couple of days you can use the RICE principle (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevate) then seek Osteo treatment to help reduce the swelling and improve function. Once pain has settled, we start to encourage gentle movements of the ankle to restore the range of motion, then look to start strengthening the muscles around the ankle to help protect the joint from further injury. 

What is involved in the rehab process? 

After the initial injury has occurred, an osteopath can help you improve the range of motion and strength around the ankle joint so that you can get you back to your regular exercise regime. Whilst not uncommon (over 80%), if the injury is left unattended this type of injury can lead to a condition termed ‘Chronic Ankle Insufficiency’ which leads to repeated incidents of the ankle rolling. 

For a tailored injury plan and how Osteopathy can help you and your injury get in contact with us at Hobsons Bay Health Group and we can definitely point you in the right direction to making you the happiest and healthiest you can be!!!

Book in online for more information or an appointment. 

Author: Osteopath, Dr Lachlan Buckley