Do I need Physical Therapy after a Lateral Ankle Sprain?
Ankle sprains are a common injury for many athletes, and the most common type of ankle sprain is a lateral ankle sprain. A lateral ankle sprain occurs with the foot moves into an inverted position, and the pain occurs on the outside of the ankle. Individuals are at an increased risk of a lateral ankle sprains if they have a history of a lateral ankle sprains, do not properly warm up before activity, have limitations in ankle range of motion, and do not participate in a balance and injury prevention program if they have a history of ankle sprains.
Ankle sprains are graded based on the severity of the sprain as grade 1, 2, or 3. The grade of sprain is determined based on the amount of function lost, instability in the ankle, bruising, swelling, loss of range of motion, and tenderness. Return to sport and prior level of function is much quicker in a grade 1 or 2 sprain compared to a grade 3 sprain. Many individuals with ankle sprains are familiar with the concept of PRICE - protection, rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Although PRICE is appropriate for a lateral ankle sprain, there is strong evidence that skilled Physical Therapy is also beneficial following a lateral ankle sprain.
A Physical Therapist can help the individual with a lateral ankle sprain determine if/what assistive device, bracing, or weight bearing limitations are necessary and assist with return to normal gait and running mechanics. Research has also shown that the addition of manual therapy techniques combined with standard treatment of PRICE and exercise resulted in improvements in self-reported function compared to those who only received PRICE and exercise. Manual therapy for a lateral ankle sprain is focused on drainage of swelling, as well as improving soft tissue and joint mobility. Due to a higher risk of lateral ankle sprains in individuals who have experienced previous ankle sprains or have ankle instability, an individualized exercise program that focuses on building stability in the entire lower extremity is beneficial to prevent recurrent sprains.