More than two million American and Canadian children visit the emergency room each year for ankle injuries.[i] Be it a sprain or strain – understanding the intricacies of this condition can help facilitate a prompt recovery which is why we are here to help break it (no pun intended) down for you.
Sprain or Strain?
A sprain means one or more ligaments is partially or completely torn. A strain, on the other hand, is a twist, pull, or tear of the muscle or tendon. So what does that mean exactly? Your ligaments are bands of connective tissue that connect bone to bone while a tendon attaches muscle to bone. So you can see why an ankle injury such as these can spell trouble.
Let’s start with ankle sprains which are the most common soft tissue injury. Sprains come in many sizes shapes, colors, and severity, but the fact remains the pain can be intense, sometimes worse than if you had broken a bone. Athletes, in particular, are at risk for a sprain because sports that involve jumping, landing, and cutting side to side are most prone to inward ankle rolls. Once you have done so, symptoms may include ankle instability, limping, swelling, tenderness, and bruising.
Unfortunately, some studies report up to an 80 percent occurrence rate in ankle sprains[ii] which is why it is important to strengthen the ankle muscles and wear an ankle brace when participating in sports to keep it from happening again. Oh, and did we mention physiotherapy can help too!
Not to be outdone by a sprain, a strain can be acute or chronic and includes muscle pain or weakness, swelling, and cramping. If you have suffered an ankle strain, you will likely experience some if not all of the following symptoms: pain, muscle spasm and weakness, swelling, inflammation, and cramping.
What do they both have in common?
If your strain or sprain is mild, rehab includes rest with total recovery time taking up to 14 days. A more severe injury will benefit from physiotherapy lasting from four to six weeks and sometimes even four months. No matter if you have suffered a strain or sprain, rehabilitation will likely follow the same course of treatment.
Here’s the thing with physiotherapy and ankle sprains/strains. If you decide to postpone treatment, you are more likely to reinjure your ankle. Then what happens is it heals improperly, so your ligaments are permanently stretched. We’ve seen it happen many times. Usually, when a patient’s condition worsens, and that means prolonged treatment and interruption to daily activities.
Rehabilitation Exercises for your Ankle
The first three to four weeks following your ankle sprain is considered the acute phase of treatment. Perhaps you have already had an x-ray performed on the injury, if not your therapist may recommend one to rule out a break. During this stage, your therapist will also address swelling using ultrasound therapy, ice, and possibly massage approximately three days per week.
From there, you will move onto manual therapy and may only visit the clinic two times per week. If there is a problem with the range of motion, your therapist will also be able to advise you if ankle supports are necessary to facilitate your treatment. If so, you can choose from our selection of brand name ankle braces right here at the clinic. The final stage of treatment is designed to get you used to your regular activities and sport related events. At this point, your therapist will educate you on exercises to do at home, and inform you of activities you might want to avoid.
Overall, you can expect your total recovery time to last anywhere from six to eight weeks. Visit our ankle exercise page for a complete list of rehabilitative movements.