Parkside Blogs + Articles

Ankle sprains

why you should ignore traditional medical advice!

Every week, thousands of people sprain their ankle. Most do it at sport, some walking down stairs or on uneven ground.

Here’s a typical story we hear as Physiotherapists, almost every week.

  • Jo was playing netball, jumped in the air for a ball, landed on an opponents foot and rolled her ankle.
  • She muttered ouch under her breath, was unable to play on, her husband helped her to the car and drove to an after hours medical centre.
  • Jo waited 4 hours, had an X-ray and is told there is “soft-tissue damage”, to take anti-inflammatories, use a crepe bandage and have a week’s rest.
  • If Jo is unlucky, she arrives for Physio 10 days later with a horrible limp and a sore, swollen, stiff ankle. She has missed a week’s work and is struggling to drop kids to sport and school.
  • If she’s really unlucky she doesn’t do any rehab at all, returns to play 6 weeks later with a stiff, weak ankle and continues to sprain the ankle on a regular basis. She has permanent stiffness in her ankle due to solid, fibrotic scar tissue, which increases the risk of knee pain and reduces shock absorption when running, jumping and landing.

This scenario is very common, but also very unnecessary, and incredibly frustrating to most Sports Physios, as there is a much better way.

We suggest you seek Physio advice as soon as possible. Even the SAME DAY! This seems crazy to most people but here’s why:

  • You get the correct diagnosis – rule out fractures and high ankle sprains, establish the severity of your sprain and get advice on the use of crutches or a boot.
  • You get advice on methods to reduce pain, swelling and how to restore movement and walking as soon as possible- why wait a week to start getting better?
  • You get painless hands-on manual therapy techniques that reduce pain and allow improved walking and standing ability immediately

Here’s how we approach ankle sprains at Parkside Sports Physio, based on scientific evidence and our experience over 3 decades of seeing sprained ankles every week.

  • Ice: apply an ice pack, or put your foot and ankle into a bucket with water and ice for 20 minutes every hour. This helps with pain relief. Keep icing for at least a few days.
  • Don’t rush off for an X-ray. X-rays are largely unnecessary for the majority of ankle sprains. There are well-established examination protocols used to tell us when you need an X-ray to rule out a broken ankle. Physios are able to refer for X-ray, so if you do need one, we will send you off straight away.
  • Use effective compression to reduce swelling. We use foam horseshoes and compression sleeves to apply comfortable effective compression around the swollen ankle and bones. Swelling in the front of the ankle can solidify and form scar tissue that will leave your ankle stiff forever! Addressing this early on has important short and long-term advantages
  • Move normally. Once we have ruled out a nasty injury, we want you to get moving as normally as pain allows. We are particularly interested in dorsiflexion, the movement that happens when you pull your foot back towards you, or when you lunge your knee forward over your toes. We will start you on exercises to restore this movement straight away, to stop you walking like a duck and get you moving normally.
  • Get your balance back. Once you sprain your ankle, you are extremely likely to do it again unless you rehab your ankle properly. Training balance and control around your ankle (called proprioception) is an important part of preventing recurrent ankle sprains and we start these exercises very early and progress them to allow you to stop, start and change direction according to your sports’ needs
  • Once you are ready to return to sport, we will show you how to tape or brace your ankle to reduce the risk of a re-sprain.