A frequently mis-managed condition
Ankle sprains are an exceedingly common injury and unfortunately are often not well rehabilitated.
Remember there can be multiple ligaments strained at the same time so pain can be more widespread and intense but not necessarily badly damaged.
A simple ankle sprain which just involves a few ligament fibers can settle within a week and allow return to normal function (even sport) and not require any treatment.
A moderate ankle sprain will be uncomfortable to walk on, will be obviously swollen usually with some bruising & discoloration and typically require 3 to 4 weeks off sporting activities – but should allow normal walking within a week or two.
If pain levels are more severe and daily activities are compromised for longer periods (more than a week) then we are suspicious of more serious ligament damage which does not just involve the Lateral ankle ligaments (outside of foot) but may also involve the ligaments of the mid-foot, medial ankle (inner ankle) or the joint above the ankle socket known as the Syndesmosis.There are a number of different clinical tests required to determine the extent of damage and of course plan the most specific type of treatment required. There is another complicating factor of severe ankle sprains which involves joint surface bruising or worse , Cartilage Damage. These cases must be recognized and managed differently from normal ankle sprains, can sometimes require a surgical intervention and are certainly more long-term and challenging to treat. From a physiotherapy perspective the key is recognizing the extent of damage early and planning the rehabilitation program to achieve the fastest possible recovery.