Ankle sprains are a very common injury amongst all levels of athletes and recreational exercisers. The most common sprain is to the outside of the ankle, which can affect any of the 3 ligaments that make a “T” at the lateral ankle.
Types of Ankle Sprains
There are many levels of sprains; all of which should be evaluated and treated by your experienced Physical Therapist.
- The simplest sprain is a grade 1 where the ligament(s) is stretched past its normal length. There is typically no bruising, but mild swelling may occur.
- A grade 2 involves minor tearing of the ligament as it is stretched; and this does have bruising and moderate swelling.
- The last is grade 3, which is a complete rupture typically requiring surgery. Physical therapy is best suited to correct the problems associated with grade 1 and 2 lateral ankle sprains.
Although many may think a simple ankle sprain does not require treatment and many can begin walking normally within a few days of the injury, this is not the case. The swelling associated with the injury inhibits the muscles from working properly as well and limits how far your ankle can move. These are two major issues for normal activity especially walking. Our body will adapt to these conditions and make adjustments to allow us to function as best as possible around the injury.
San Antonio Physical Therapist
This can be detrimental to your recovery and inevitably full participation in sports and recreational activities. With that said, even just a few visits of physical therapy can help reduce the swelling, restore the normal motion of the ankle, and revive your ability to perform at 100% without the possibility of future problems. Besides the swelling, pain and limited motion there is another aspect of the ankle that is injured that most do not know about.
Risk of Future Ankle Sprains
I am sure many have heard the expression that once you have an ankle sprain, you are more likely to have more and more. This is exactly correct, but with physical therapy it does not have to be. The lateral ankle ligaments have nerve fibers in them that give feedback to our brain to tell us “where we are in space.” In other words, these fibers allow us to know the exact placement of our ankle with every motion and position. Unfortunately, the stretched or torn ligament and associated swelling severely damages these nerve fibers. This is part of the reason why we are so much more likely to sprain our ankle again, because as the ligament heals the sensory fibers do not, which means we cannot feel when our ankle is about to give out until it is too late. So physical therapy can help heal these sensory fibers better than anything else.
Do yourself a favor next time you sprain your ankle and give us a visit to give you the best outcome possible for your recovery.
Corey Verostick, PT, DPT, FAAOMPT
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Physical Therapy
Clinical Director, Westover Hills Clinic