Don’t Let an Ankle Sprain Keep You From Moving
by JD Fields, DPT, OCS
AZOPT Glendale Clinic Manager

One of the more common injuries we encounter at AZOPT is ankle sprains. Most think ankle sprains only can happen during sports or high-level activity, but in truth, these occur more regularly during normal daily and recreational activities such as chores, hiking, and even walking. These regular events are thought of as mild sprains that people don’t normally seek out medical attention. Surprisingly, up to 40% of individuals who sprained their ankle mildly continue to have long term problems and symptoms. These individuals are also twice as likely to experience additional ankle sprains, which can result in more serious injuries like fractures, cartilage damage, tendon damage, and longstanding ligament laxity at the ankle.

Promoting full healing and a safe return to normal activities is the only way to avoid these chronic symptoms many experience. A licensed physical therapist is the best resource to help guide you through this process and assist you in reaching your goals to avoid further complications. Through a thorough evaluation, your physical therapist will determine all of the factors contributing to your pain and the injury. The focus will be to promote normal joint mechanics as well as healing of the irritated tissues.

The first, and probably most important, concept to remember is to keep moving! Depending on the severity of the ankle sprain, your ability to walk may be limited. It is vital that we attempt to maintain the motion of our ankle as well as maintain our ability to bear weight through the foot.  Gentle ankle circles right after the injury, or other movement exercises at the ankle, can act as a pumping mechanism to promote a healthy environment for healing as well as maintain the mobility required to walk normally. A licensed physical therapist will help you determine if a corrective device, like a cane or brace, is necessary. We will also detail a plan of how to progress your walking ability. If weight bearing is not possible due to too much pain, your PT can assist in ruling out other serious injuries that may come from an ankle sprain, like a fracture, and direct you to the correct health care professional.

Another way to assist the healing of an ankle sprain is through the use of hands-on manual therapy, which is a technique only a licensed physical therapist can perform. Research has shown that hands-on interventions at the joints and soft tissues surrounding the ankle can immensely reduce overall pain as well as increase speed of your recovery.

The final intervention performed by a licensed physical therapist is patient-specific therapeutic exercises. Your plan will train the deficits in balance, coordination, landing mechanics, as well as muscular strength not only in and hour your ankle, but also at your hips and core. During this time we also address the fears and beliefs that manifest with an ankle sprain and promote confidence in your ability to avoid further injures and function at your best.

Ankle sprains are very common, so common that many of us never to think to seek medical treatment. Experiencing long lasting symptoms is not normal, but you are not alone. At AZOPT, our physical therapists will help you understand all of the specific aspects of your injury to ensure your safe and effective return to the activities you need and love to do. We provide the one-on-one personalized care that addresses the root cause of your injury to get you back to feeling better, functioning better, and living better.