The most basic rehab for the most common injury

One of the most common injuries we see patients for is the standard inversion ankle sprain.This kind of sprain is very typical for people playing sports, running or even just hiking. This injury occurs when the ankle joint turns inward and stretches the lateral ligaments of the ankle. Mild sprains usually are not too bad and have minimal pain and swelling and the person can walk without too much discomfort. A more severe sprain will cause excessive stretching or even tearing of one or more of the lateral three ligaments of the ankle. In this case there will be significant pain, swelling and eventually bruising noted around the ankle. In this case walking is often very painful and difficult. Most often a period of non weight bearing is required to allow healing and recovery to begin and not to disrupt initial healing.
Regardless of how severe the sprain is, there will always need to be some amount of rehabilitation to get back to activity. Too often I see patients for these conditions because they thought once the pain is gone, they could return to sport. But remember, any injury is going have some level of deconditioning and dysfunction once the initial pain and mobility loss has improved. When we injure our joint in this manner there is obviously a period of down time in which the muscles of our lower leg become very weak. If we try to return to sport too early, or unprepared, we usually are limited by pain, weakness and poor performance. Recovery and return to sport can be as little as three weeks or up to three months depending on the severity.
This is where your physical therapist comes in and helps restore full function of the injured ankle. In more mild cases, you may be able to avoid professional help by doing some of your own basic exercises to get your ankle back to playing shape. Remember when we sprain an ankle we just don’t lose strength but also dynamic control of the joint. Ligaments have structures in them that tell our brain what’s going on. These structures get injured and have to be retrained with a lot balance and proprioceptive exercises to regain stability. In general, these basic exercises can be done when appropriate to get back to sport. Start with getting full mobility back with ankle circles and the runner’s stretch. Then work towards general strength with double calf raises, single calf raise, theraband inversion/eversion exercises. Most importantly, work on balance and coordination with, single leg balance (on ground, BOSU ball, soft pad,dynadisc) and finally plyometric exercises that include small hops and jumps in varying directions.
Follow these steps and you may be able to recover on your own. But of course seek professional advice if you find that you are not able to recover fully or pain persists.

Jan Klofter, MPT



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