Ankle sprains are common injuries that occur when the foot twists or turns beyond its normal range of movement, causing the ligaments of the ankle to overstretch or tear. Whether it's from playing softball down on the National Mall, or walking to work in downtown Washington, DC, an ankle sprain isa significant injury that although common should not be taken lightly.
If you sprain your ankle, a Rose physical therapist can help to reduce your pain and regain your strength, motion, and balance. Your Rose physical therapist will then help you to return to normal activity levels and teach you to avoid reinjury in the future.
What Is Ankle Sprain?
Sprains are injuries to ligaments (the bands of tissue that hold joints together). Ankle sprains occur when the foot twists or turns beyond its normal range of movement, causing the ligaments connecting the bones of the leg, ankle, and foot to overstretch or tear.
The ligaments on the outer (lateral) side of the ankle are the ones most commonly injured. Ligaments on the inner (medial) side of the ankle, or above the ankle bone, can also be sprained, but are injured less frequently.
An ankle sprain usually takes between 2 weeks to 2 months to heal. The ankle will feel better after a few weeks, and be fully strengthened in a few months. A severely sprained ligament, however, can take 9 months to 1 year to heal.
Recurrent ankle sprains are common; once an ankle ligament is sprained, it is often reinjured. Reinjury is especially likely if muscle strength and balance are not fully restored to, or improved beyond, preinjury levels. This is why seeking out a great physical therapist can be very important to recovery from this common injury.
How Does It Feel?
Right after an ankle sprain, you may experience:
- Inability to stand or walk on the affected foot
- A feeling of instability in the ankle joint
After most sprains, you feel pain right away at the site of the ligament stretch or tear. Often, the ankle starts to swell immediately and may bruise. The ankle area usually is tender to the touch, and when you move the ankle, it hurts. In more severe sprains, you may hear or feel something tear, along with a "pop" or "snap."
How Is It Diagnosed?
Your physical therapist at Rose will examine your ankle, take your health history, and ask questions such as:
- How did you get injured?
- Did you feel a pop, snap, or tear?
- What activities are you having trouble doing?
- What activities do you want to get back to doing?
Your Rose physical therapist will gently press around your ankle to see if it is painful to the touch, and may use additional tests to determine if other parts of your foot are injured. At Rose Physical Therapy, we will test your strength and flexibility, observe how you can move your foot and leg, and watch how you walk.
Depending on how badly a ligament is damaged, or how many ligaments are injured, your ankle sprain may be classified as:
- Grade 1 (mild). The ligament is overstretched.
- Grade 2 (moderate). The ligament is overstretched or partially torn.
- Grade 3 (severe). The ligament is completely torn.
At Rose Physical Therapy, we will test and screen for other, more serious conditions that could be causing the pain and swelling. If a more definitive diagnosis is necessary, your physical therapist may collaborate with an orthopedic surgeon or physiatrist to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other damage to the ankle, such as a fracture.
Treatment at Rose Physical Thearpy Group
Your Rose physical therapist will work with you to:
Reduce Pain and Swelling. You will learn how to avoid or modify your daily and sports activities to allow healing to begin. Your physical therapist may use different types of treatments and technologies to control and reduce your pain and swelling, including ice, heat, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, taping, specific exercises, and hands-on therapy, such as specialized massage.
Improve Motion. At Rose, your physical therapist will choose specific activities and treatments to help restore normal movement in the ankle. These might begin with "passive" motions that a physical therapist at Rose performs for you to gently move your ankle and foot, and progress to “active” exercises and stretches that you do yourself.
Improve Flexibility. At Rose, your physical therapist will determine if any foot, ankle, or lower leg muscles are tight, begin to stretch them, and teach you how to stretch them.
Improve Strength. Ankle sprains may be related to weak, injured, or uncoordinated leg muscles. Certain exercises will aid healing at each stage of recovery; your physical therapist at Rose will choose and teach you the correct exercises and equipment to use, to steadily and safely restore your strength. These may include using cuff weights, stretch bands, and weight-lifting equipment. At Rose we will try to minimize the need for expensive equipment or gym memberships and help you to understand how to treat yourself on your own.
Improve Endurance. Regaining your muscular endurance in the ankle and leg is important after an injury. Rose physical therapists will teach you exercises to improve endurance, so you can return to your normal activities. Cardio-exercise equipment may be used, such as treadmills or stationary bicycles.
Improve Balance. Regaining your sense of balance is important after an injury. Your Rose physical therapist will teach you exercises to improve your balance ability so that even the most suspect Washington, DC sidewalk is no problem!
Restore Agility. Speed and accuracy of leg movement is important in athletics and in many daily activities. At Rose, your physical therapist will help you regain these skills in preparation for a return to sports and to your daily routine. This is an important distinction about Rose: our goal is to return you to sport, not just to walking, and this is distinct from many physical therapy practices.
Learn a Home Program. Your physical therapist will teach you strengthening and stretching exercises to perform at home. These exercises will be specific for your needs; if you do them as prescribed by us here at Rose, you can speed your recovery.
Return to Activities. Your physical therapist at Rose will discuss activity goals with you and use them to set your work, sport, and home-life recovery goals. Your treatment program will help you reach your goals in the safest, fastest, and most effective way possible. Your Rose physical therapist will teach you exercises, work retraining activities, and sport-specific techniques and drills to help you achieve your goals.
Speed Recovery Time. At Rose, your physical therapist is uniquely trained and experienced in choosing the best treatments and exercises to help you safely heal, return to your normal lifestyle, and reach your goals faster than you are likely to do on your own. Rose Physical Therapy Group is unique because our therapists carry multiple specialties that allow us to employ and combine diagnostic methods and treatment regimines to really personalize your care on a level that is designed to be the gold standard in the industry. We're pushing the cutting edge of diagnosis and treatment in physical therapy.
If Surgery Is Necessary
Surgery is not commonly required for ankle sprains. But if surgery is needed, you will follow a recovery program over several weeks, guided by your physical therapist. Your physical therapist will help you minimize pain, regain motion and strength, and return to normal activities in the safest and speediest manner possible. Even if you have surgery and your recovery is directed by your surgeon, it is usually better to see a patient oriented physical therapy practice, such as Rose, that is independent of your surgeon. This is because Rose will likely offer longer appointments and better expert physical therapists.
Rose Physical Therapy is here in Washington, DC to help!
If you have an ankle sprain that seems serious, give us a call to setup an appointment right away, or schedule through our website and please indicate the severity of your injury so we can schedule you with the appropriate level of urgency at either our office in downtown Washington, DC between Dupont Circle and Farragut Square, or at our office in Navy Yard and Capitol Riverfront, just a few blocks from Capitol Hill.