A sprain to the lateral aspect of the ankle is a common injury. It can happen during a rigorous sporting event or when walking on uneven terrain. This injury can be very painful and activity will be limited for a couple of weeks. However, if a sprain does not fully recover, it could lead to recurrent injuries well after the first incident.
When lateral ankle inversion occurs, ligaments can stretch or tear as the bottom of the foot moves inward. These ligaments that provide mobility and support to the ankle become weakened and lack proper functionality. To reduce pain and swelling for a sprain, the typical treatment consists of ice, rest, and NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Although this will lessen swelling and discoloration, ligaments in the foot may still be damaged.
Without proper rehabilitation, the ankle will remain unstable. The ankle is more susceptible to injury because the ligaments did not fully recover and cannot support normal balance and mobility. Recurring injuries or sprains can easily occur if the ankle is over-exerted without proper recovery and support. This may prolong recovery time and increase the potential for further injury.
In order to avoid long-term ankle instability, stretched or torn ligaments must undergo exercising and re-strengthening. “Ankle instability from injuries requires proper therapy to strengthen the affected ligaments and muscles. Bracing should be used during activity to reduce the probability of a recurrence,” said Richard Call, Certified Pedorthist and Footmaxx Clinical Consultant.
Depending on the severity of the sprain and the activity level of the patient, recovery will vary for patients. During the recovery period, protection must be applied to the ankle to inhibit further injury. There are a number of ways to protect a fragile ankle without breaking the bank.
Custom foot orthotics can be used to prevent ankle sprains and control repeated injury caused by lateral ankle instability. Orthotics provide balance and enhance support during normal gait. To help instability, orthotics with a heel cup device and postings give added support to weak ligaments. A deep heel cup will embed the calcaneus and protect it from movement. Postings raise the side in which the ankle is subject to roll, providing it with added support.
Properly fitted shoes are also critical for recovery because they provide protection and support for the ankles. Shoes that offer a properly fit depth with a snug fitting counter, control the ankle from abnormal movement. Appropriate shoes can also be used to inhibit any preliminary sprains. Semi-rigid orthotics combined with a pair of properly fitted shoes will keep the ankles protected from inversion/eversion of the ankle.
For more serious ankle sprains, Ankle Foot Orthoses (AFO) and braces are used to restrict movement and protect damaged ligaments in the ankle. These can also be used for highly active athletes. Keeping the ankle from moving abnormally during intense sports is important to reduce recurrent injury.
For assessment and treatment of ankle sprains and prescription for custom orthotics contact Arbutus Physiotherapy & Health Centre.