What is Physical Therapy like for an Ankle Sprain?
Rehabbing A Sprained Ankle, Getting Back On Your Feet
A sprained ankle is not an uncommon injury, but can be very painful and may require extensive time and therapy to heal. Typically, ankle sprains are categorized as one of the following “Grades,” depending on the severity of the sprain. The extent of physical therapy required to help heal an ankle sprain will depend on how the sprain is graded and whether surgery is required.
Grade I Ankle Sprains
This first class of ankle sprain is the generally the mildest, both in terms of damage to the ankle and the level of pain and discomfort associated with the sprain. In a Grade I injury, the ankle’s supporting ligaments suffer a stretch injury. The ATFL (anterior talofibular ligament) is the most commonly injured in a rolled ankle. Though painful, the ankle itself does not become unstable. By definition, Grade I sprains do not involve fracturing of the ankle bones and rarely require surgery.
Grade II Ankle Sprains
The second class of ankle sprain is characterized by smallor partial tearing of one or several of the ankle’s supporting ligaments (like the ATFL). Though not always, this level of injury can result in some instability of the boney structures in the joint. Frequently, a Grade II sprain will require suspension of activity for some time and will benefit from some level of physical therapy to prevent future ankle injury and restore normal range of motion.
Grade III Ankle Sprains
The third class of sprain is the most severe and usually indicates a full-thickness tear of one or more of the ligaments supporting the ankle. Sometimes, an injury this severe will result in the ligament pulling boney fragments away from the ankle bone as it is torn. These injuries almost always lead to a significant degree of joint instability and cannot be managed with ice, elevation, and rest alone but usually involve extensive rehabilitation, physical therapy, and potentially surgery.
How to Stretch and Strengthen Ankles (Ankle Exercises for Improving Strength and Range of motion to protect– what you can do)
Unfortunately, one of the factors that puts you at greatest risk for experiencing an ankle tear is having already suffered an ankle injury. It is incredibly important that you allow sufficient rest and recovery time after any level of ankle sprain before resuming normal physical activities.
Once your therapist approves you for physical therapy activities, they may recommend a number of the following exercises to support, strengthen, and stabilize the joint:
- Range of motion. These may include simple flexion and extension movements, with or without resistance.
- Static and dynamic balance. These exercises will help build strength in the muscles and ligaments surrounding the joint to support ankle stability.
- Plyometrics. Exercises that require proprioception help restore the body’s ability to control balance through muscle memory and are especially effective when an athlete is trying to return to peak athletic performance after an ankle injury.
- Glute activation. Strengthening the gluteus minimus, medius and maximus muscles will help maintain balance and protect the knee and ankle joints from future injury.
Insufficient healing after a sprained ankle can result in permanent loss of range of motion and strength in the joint, leading to disruption of athletic performance and even hindering normal, everyday physical activity.
In addition to seeking physical therapy, wearing appropriate shoes and supportive devices like an ankle brace when training or exercising can be helpful in supporting a sprained ankle during recovery.
Rehab 2 Perform Gets You Back On Your Feet After An Ankle Sprain
Seeking physical therapy in Frederick, MD or Germantown? Contact Rehab 2 Perform at 301-798-4838 or fill out the contact form on our website to schedule an appointment; don’t let a sprained ankle prevent you from achieving your fitness goals.