Ankle Sprains: Not Just A “Walk-It-Off” Injury

If you roll your ankle while walking, running or playing a sport you probably don’t seek treatment.  In fact, most of us will probably continue the activity and at the very most wear an ankle brace.  An ankle sprain can create poor balance and effect the way the body moves.  This occurs because the proprioception at the ankle has been damaged.  Proprioception is the brain’s way of knowing where your body is in space and being able to safely negotiate within your environment.  It is what allows us to close our eyes and touch our finger to our nose or walk on grassy, uneven ground without falling.  The brain receives this information from receptors in the muscles, tendons and ligaments throughout the body.  When you “roll” your ankle, then these structures can become damaged and result in poor balance.  Without proper retraining to regain this function at the ankle, you are at increased risk for future and possible more serious ankle injuries. Just one ankle sprain can increase your chances for recurrent ankle sprains by as much as 70%.  AND about 50% of recurrent ankle sprains end up with chronic pain or instability.   

A systematic review of 2 RCTs with 703 and 1057 patients determined that completing a supervised rehabilitation program focusing on balance and coordination for a minimum of 6 weeks after an acute ankle injury substantially reduced the risk of recurrent ankle sprains for as long as a year.

BOTTOM LINE
See a Physical Therapist.  A physical therapist has the tools necessary to ensure your symptoms improve and there are no long-term deficits as a result of your ankle injury.  They will perform a thorough evaluation of your ankle movement, strength, balance/proprioception and develop a plan of care tailored to your needs in order to avoid ankle sprains in the future.   

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References:
Patrick OM, Hertel J. Systematic review of postural control and lateral ankle instability, part II: is balance training clinically effective? J Athletic Trng. 2008;43:305-315.
Hubbard, Tricia J. and Wikstrom, Erik A.  Ankle sprain: pathophysiology, predisposing factors, and management strategies.  J Sports Med. 2010; 1: 115–122.