Should I see a PT after spraining my ankle?
Ankle sprains are a common injury and can occur for a variety of reasons such as sports, unideal footwear, or walking over unstable surfaces. A sprain is an injury to a ligament which attaches a bone to another bone. Oftentimes, a lateral ankle sprain will occur from rolling on the outer edge of your foot. This may result in an injury to the anterior talofibular ligament or ATFL for short which is the most commonly injury ankle ligament. There is a grading system for ankle sprains from grade I which is minimal damage, grade II as moderate damage, and grade III which is severe damage to the ligamentous fibers. Your provider will help classify the extent of your injury based on multiple factors including the way your foot moves and the mechanism of injury.
Rhon et. Al. performed a retrospective study of the US Military Health System with regards to care following an ankle sprain over 4 years (1). The researchers sought to determine the influence of time to begin physical rehabilitation on injury recurrence and subsequent medical care. The results of the study found that delayed rehabilitation was linearly associated with increased probability of recurring ankle sprains and greater number of ankle-related medical visits. Thus, this study suggests the importance of seeing a physical therapist following an ankle sprain to decrease the risk of re-injury.
Physical therapy for this type of injury can vary depending on the extent of injury and the patient’s goals to get back to different activities. The first step in healing an ankle sprain is to decrease the swelling with rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE). You may also be instructed to wear an ankle brace to promote optimal healing of the ligamentous structures. Promoting ideal healing is important so that the ligaments do not heal in an overstretched position as this could lead to re-injury. The next steps will focus on gaining appropriate pain free motion in the foot, so that it can move in optimal directions when walking or standing. Your therapist may also focus on strengthening the smaller muscles in your foot also known as intrinsic muscles to promote controlled loading between the various bones in your feet. As you progress with physical therapy, we will also work on balance and discuss appropriate footwear to decrease the risk of reinjury. Due to the varying degrees of ankle injuries, the course of physical therapy will change from person to person. The goal after finishing therapy is to have a toolbox of stretches and exercises that you can continue to use to prevent another ankle sprain and have in the case of re-injury.
If you have experienced an ankle injury and need an evaluation, give us a call at 360-329-7052 to reach our Port Orchard Office or 360-625-9161 to reach our Silverdale Office, both located in Kitsap County
Jill Hoffman PT, DPT is a physical therapist specializing in treating orthopedic conditions.
- Rhon, Daniel I., et al. “Delayed Rehabilitation Is Associated with Recurrence and Higher Medical Care Use after Ankle Sprain Injuries in the United States Military Health System.” Journal of Orthopaedic& Sports Physical Therapy, vol. 51, no. 12, 2021, pp. 619–627., https://doi.org/10.2519/jospt.2021.10730.