If you are like me then you have experienced about 100 different ankle sprains in your lifetime. This may be a slightly exaggerated number, but this is an incredibly common injury. It’s estimated that approximately 23,000-27,000 ankle sprains happen EVERY DAY in the United States alone! This is an injury that’s more often associated with an athletic incident, and takes place mostly with basketball players. However, we see this happen in tennis players, racquetball players, and more recently pickleball players. If you’re like me then this has happened to you because you were walking on a completely level surface at an extremely normal pace. Meaning this does not happen only to athletes but to everyone! So why is this such a common thing?
Basically, the ankle complex is supported by a few different ligaments that are susceptible to “stretch” if you experience what’s referred to as an inversion or eversion injury. This is basically the motion that happens when you “roll” your ankle either inward or outward quickly. The stretch that happens to a ligament is actually what a sprain is. On top of this being an extremely common experience, it’s very easy to undergo a recurrence of the injury.
A few very common things that are experienced after an ankle sprain can include:
You can also feel like your foot/ankle are unstable and it may be difficult to walk on or perform any single leg stance activities (i.e. walking, jogging, weight bearing). Pain usually takes place at the site of whichever ligament was injured. The swelling that occurs takes place throughout the top portion of the foot along the joint line.
Depending on the severity of the stretch to the ligament, different grades of injury may occur.
- Grade 1: Ligament is excessively stretch
- Grade 2: Ligament is excessively stretched or a partial tear is present
- Grade 3: Ligament is completely torn
The grade of the injury is what determines the healing time of the ligament. For more mild grades the symptoms are usually resolved within 2-3 weeks. More severe grades may actually require surgical intervention if a fracture or complete ligament rupture is associated with the sprain.
We consider the initial stages of ankle sprain to be the acute phase of healing. During this time the goal is to decrease symptoms. A few basic things to do during this time include simply resting, applying ice, weight bearing /walking as much as possible without increasing symptoms, and if the grade is severe enough using crutches or other supportive devices is very appropriate. Also including gentle movements of the ankle can help as long as they don’t increase your symptoms. In the clinical setting we have several different tools and techniques that we can apply to limit and reduce your pain as much as possible.
As this acute phase of the injury subsides the next step is your return to activities. Remember to be cautious as you return to your exercise/sport routines. It only takes 5-7 days of being off your foot/ankle to lose up to 10-15% of muscle strength. A good guideline may be starting exercise at 50-60% of previous levels and see how your ankle responds, increased pain and swelling means you increased your activity levels too quickly (also worth noting is to maintain same activity level for 2-3 workouts - your ankle may tolerate new activity at first but still be overwhelmed with continued increases).
If this is one of the first times that you have sprained your ankle then some rest and being careful adding back activity should be all you need. On the other hand if you have injured your ankle 3 or more times then these are now recurrent ankle sprains that will NOT go away on their own. Some functionality issues have developed that need to be addressed by a PT. We have some great manual techniques here at the clinic that will promote proper ankle function to get you back to where you need to be!
If you are experiencing any pain in your foot or ankle, or think you’ve recently experienced an ankle sprain, make sure you check out our Facebook page. We are putting a video up that outlines a few different moves to try to decrease your pain, improve your mobility, and maintain the stability of your ankle. We will also be doing a Facebook live to cover any other questions that you may have so check that out!
If you have any questions or need us to check your ankle out for you call us at (817)923-9000. We don’t mind answering questions via phone, email, or setting up a quick 15 minute free screen for you. Thanks for reading, and we hope to hear from you soon!