The ankle is the joint between the lower parts of the tibia and fibula (shin bones) and the tarsal bones at the back of the foot. It is crisscrossed by a number of ligaments that can become injured when the ankle has a sudden twist that stretches the ligaments beyond their normal range. The most common type of ankle sprain occurs when the ankle rolls so that the sole of the foot faces inwards. This is called an inversion sprain, it involves the lateral ligaments of the ankle and is one of the most common injuries we treat as physiotherapists.
It is important to get a professional diagnosis with every ankle sprain no matter how mild, since there may be damage to tendons, bones and other joint tissues in addition to ligament damage. Quite often associated fractures of the ankle bones are missed when an ankle is sprained therefore x-rays are highly recommended.
Inversion ankle sprains occur due to the relative instability outside of the ankle and weakness of the ligaments which allow the ankle to roll. Ankle sprains occur most often with sport where there is a quick change in direction or if the person lands on someone else’s feet or on an uneven surface after a jump.
Falling down stairs or curbs is another common way to sustain an inversion sprain.
Ankle sprains can be divided into three categories of severity:
Minimal (Grade 1)-:
This involves some minor tearing of the ligament, little or no instability, mild pain and swelling on
the outside of the ankle and some stiffness and difficulty walking.
Moderate to severe (Grade 2)-:
There is moderate tearing of the ligament, some instability, moderate pain and swelling and stiffness and difficulty walking.
Complete or severe (Grade 3)-:
There is total rupture of the ligament, gross instability of the joint and severe swelling. If the nerve fibres associated with the ankle are also ruptured, there may be no pain, or if they are intact but severely stretched then pain levels can be very high.
Physiotherapy can help with pain management and treatment of the injury to restore your functional independence.