Ankle sprains are the most common injury in day to day life and when doing sports, most of us at some point have twisted an ankle. They account for 20% of the injuries seen at A&E never mind all those that are self-managed or simply rested and ‘walked-off’.The question of whether this is sufficient must be asked. Could anything more be done other than shrugging the shoulders and saying it’s just an ankle sprain. The answer is yes!
The one predictor for injury is a previous injury to that part of the body so accepting that you have ‘weak ankles’ and that is your lot for now and forever is not good enough. So how about doing something about preventing that next twist? Physiotherapy is the answer. The principle is relatively straight forward – support the body’s own healing process.
- PRICE – the acronym for protect, rest, ice, compress and elevate. This deals with the initial symptoms of a twist that include tissue damage, pain and swelling.
- Treatment – As the pain and swelling subsides the main issues tend to be stiffness, weakness and difficulty coordinating the muscles around the area to work properly. Techniques to assist healing at this stage might involve soft tissue massage, range of movement and muscle strength/coordination exercises.
- Rehabilitation – If everything is on course there is the final stage of movement rehabilitation that gets the person back to their former level of function. This will involve functional strengthening exercises and movement reeducation.
- Prevention – Finally a good physio will always be asking why this happened in the first place and is there anything else that can be addressed to make the patient more robust and less likely to re-twist the ankle. Preventative advice and possibly an ongoing exercise programme will be provided.
It may well be necessary to take things into your own hands. By the time you have seen your GP or A&E doctor and perhaps been referred to physio you are likely to wait and then miss the golden period for rehab. As identified above, the body should be supported through the healing process. There are a number of stages that physiologically have to happen (and will happen automatically), however a physiotherapist will be able to guide you through the process and ensure that no unnecessary issues occur and that the best result is achieved.
Unfortunately, one thing is for sure, after a twist the ankle will never be the same again. That’s not to say, especially with the physiotherapy treatment, that the ankle won’t work well rather than becoming one of those ‘weak ankles’ that can eventually lead onto other issues in the future. Other than recurrent twists, conditions such as seemingly unexplained knee and hip pain may result with an increased chance of arthritis – there has to be a reason why some joints need replacements and others don’t.
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