What to do With an Ankle Sprain?

By David Dayton

As the weather begins to improve and our activity level begins to increase, especially in the outdoors, the incidence of ankle injury or sprains tends to increase. These injuries can occur from sports related accidents, hiking in the mountains, or from almost any kind of slip or fall.  

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Ankle sprain severity is graded from a grade I to a grade III, with grade III being the most severe sprain.  The initial treatment, as we all have been taught, is the RICE method;

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Compression
  • Elevation

It is important to control swelling and maintain function and motion of the ankle. A lot of time is spent on restoring ROM of the ankle, decreasing pain, and increasing the strength during the recovery phase. This often times requires the assistance of a physical therapist to provide guidance and direction in the recovery process. 

One aspects of recovery often forgotten is restoring or retraining for balance or proprioception. This is necessary in order to prevent injuries from becoming chronic or recurrent. Within the ligaments and structures around our ankle joints are little nerve endings that detect changes in tension. As these nerve endings detect a change or that the ankle is twisting, they send signals to the brain indicating the ankle is turning or about to be injured. The brain responds by sending a signal to the appropriate muscles to correct for the change in tension and to protect the ankle from turning or sustaining an injury.  Unfortunately, when we sustain an injury to our ankle, the nerve endings that are there to protect the ankle become impaired or injured themselves. This may result in a chronic ankle problem.

For this reason, it is essential to retrain these nerve endings by focusing on balance. Therefore, part of the rehabilitation process should consist of activities that require balance training.  This may include:

  • Single leg stance activities,
  • Tandem balance activities
  • Or, other activities that challenge ones balance in standing 

Balance training is also something that can be done as a preventive method to protect us from sprains as well as from preventing further injury. For more information and discussion on ankles and other joint topics visit us at www.facebook.com/IntermountainGo