Rest alone may not heal a sprained ankle
Ankle sprains are among the most common problems seen in a physical therapy clinic. The ankle joint, made up of several bones, tendons and ligaments is an unstable joint that is easily injured. This can happen to athletes during running or jumping, or to anyone who suddenly twists the ankle or puts an unusual amount of force on the joint. A sprain will result in pain, swelling, stiffness and difficulty walking. The natural inclination is to rest the foot, but this alone is not always helpful.
For the first thirty-six hours following an ankle sprain the RICE protocol (Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate) should be used. Anti-inflammatory medications may be prescribed by your doctor to help control the pain and you may even be given crutches to allow you to move around without putting the foot on the ground. All of this helps initially, but resting the ankle for too long will result in a joint that is weak and inflexible and more prone to injury. Physical therapy assessment and treatment will be required to help with healing of the ankle and restoring it to its pre-injury state.
We will conduct an evaluation to determine the extent of your injury and your current level of function. We will also ask you a number of questions and conduct a number of tests, before designing a program to put you back on your feet. Pain can be addressed with ultrasound and massage, which will also help reduce scar tissue development that leads to stiffness. Stretching and strengthening exercises to promote flexibility and movement while reducing pain and stiffness will form the major part of your program. Range-of-motion exercises such as ankle circles can get the joint moving again. The calf muscles should also be stretched as these tend to become tight to protect the sprained again.
Healing a sprained ankle may take anywhere from 2 to 8 weeks, however with physical therapy and the program described above, recovery should be much shorter and you can have a much stronger ankle.
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