Are you hobbling around in pain after tripping over? This is not uncommon and we have treated a number of patients at Physio By Design in our Albany clinic! A lateral ankle sprain could be the problem and it can be fixed – and here we break it down into plain English...

Ankle injuries are one of the most common injuries we see at Physio by Design - and whilst there are a few different injuries which can occur in this area, the most common is a lateral ankle sprain. Have you ever rolled your ankle, stepped into a pot-hole or stepped on someone’s foot during a sports game? This is what we call in the business, a lateral ankle sprain.

Lateral Ankle Sprain

The most common ankle sprain injury

The most common structure to be injured is the Anterior Talofibular Ligament or the ATFL (see picture).

A Grade 1 sprain means approximately 10% of the ligament fibres have been damaged through stretching or tearing which will result in some pain, swelling and bruising but the joint stability remains intact. You might find yourself hobbling around, wincing in pain when your ankle is in certain positions and getting some relief by using a frozen bag of peas.

A Grade 2 sprain means that 50% of the ligament fibres have been damaged which results in far more pain and an increase in swelling and bruising. Joint stability will also be compromised and you may have trouble putting pressure on the ankle and therefore will experience pain when walking.

If you have a complete rupture of the ligament fibres then this is a Grade 3 sprain. Whilst you will have less pain in this scenario due to all of the fibres being torn apart, you will experience more swelling and bruising and your joint stability will be severely compromised.

With a grade 2 or 3 sprain, more structures in the lateral ankle become involved. This generally prolongs the healing process and without help from a Physiotherapist, this will delay the return to playing and training and general physical activity.

Treatment options

General treatments for a lateral ankle sprain do not tend to differ between the grades of injury – and the first step will be where the well-known R.I.C.E treatment comes in. Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.

The first 24-48 hours are critical and therefore if you can apply this treatment frequently during this time, you will be able to reduce the swelling and pain.

After 48 hours if there is no improvement, definitely head to a medical professional, such as a Physiotherapist for a diagnosis and treatment options.

Depending on the level of injury, treatment plans could consist of: a period of time being immobilised in a brace, Ultrasound, Manual Therapy, Stretching, Strapping and Exercises.

Don’t ignore it!

Risks of leaving your injury untreated:

  • Your nervous system becomes involved

  • Reduced balance

  • Structural integrity loss

  • Re-injury

Whilst we know that rehab can feel repetitive, it is so important that you stick to the treatment plan and exercises suggested so you can retrain this sense and strengthen the ankle structures to reduce the chance of re-injuring yourself.

Easy exercises you can do at home

Check out this handy 5-minute video, which shows five exercises that you can do at home, and will help to rehab a lateral ankle sprain.

In our next blog, we will discuss other types of ankle injuries, including peroneal tendons or avulsion fractures to the distal fibula or base of the 5th Metatarsal.

Always remember that if in doubt and in so much pain that you cannot walk at all, contact a suitable medical professional as soon as possible.