Ankle sprains are common injuries for the active population. Ankle sprains occur when the ligaments of the ankle are overstretched such as when the ankle is twisted, turned in or turned out under load or speed conditions such as running. Ligaments are taut bands that connect bones and provide the passive stability of joints. When the ligaments become overstretched, they lose their ability to remain stiff, rigid structures causing the joint to have excess movement and susceptible to future injuries. The three most commonly injured ligaments that are injured during an ankle sprain are the outside (lateral) ligaments known as;
- anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL)
- calcaneofibular ligamnet (CFL)
- posterior talofibular ligament (PTFL)
When an ankle sprain occurs the most common symptom, you’ll feel pain followed quickly by swelling of the ankle joint. Depending on the severity of the injury, you may or may not be able to weight bear on the ankle. Specific areas of the ankle may be tender to touch. The best results for ankle sprains occur when clinical assessment and treatment begin straight away. The swelling that occurs with the ankle sprain is both a positive and negative aspect. The swelling is a component of the healing process; however if the swelling becomes excessive, it in itself can cause pain and limit function. Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilisation (IASTM) can assist significantly to gently encourage a decrease in the swelling while treating some of the involved muscles that have become taunt in response to the acute injury. Following the manual therapy treatment, (if indicated) exercise is essential to ensure the ankle recovers fast and heals stronger than before the injury. Your therapist may help to stabilise your ankle with strapping tape for the initial period of the injury. Unfortunately, recurrent ankle sprains are common (Doherty et al. 2014).
People that have had multiple mild ankle sprains or even one severe ankle sprain may develop scarring & thickening of the ankle ligaments, which may cause pinching or compression issues around the ankle during movement. Progressive exercise programs aimed at strengthening the ankle structures (muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones etc.) is imperative to decrease future injury risks (Martin & McGovern, 2016).