Ankle sprain or instability

Ankle sprains and lateral (outer) ankle instability are one of the more common conditions treated. Ankles by the nature of their design are less stable on the outside (lateral) aspect, and so easier to sprain by going over onto the outside (inversion or lateral ankle sprain). A bad sprain can lead to acute swelling, possible ligament damage, tendon damage, and there may be lasting effects as the ankle may become weaker.

In the event of a bad sprain, it is vital to get the swelling down to an absolute minimum. This is best achieved by getting something from the freezer(frozen peas or gel pack) and compressing it against the area that has been sprained, as soon after the injury as possible. In addition to this, you should raise the ankle and remain off your feet.

This is called the RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) protocol. Any delay in doing this immediately will have lasting effects on the time it takes for the swelling to go down and the ankle to rehabilitate. This is because the swelling will have long term effects on important tendons that support the foot.

In the case of a bad ankle sprain, if there is still considerable discomfort on walking one day later, then it is strongly advisable to provide external support for the ankle. This can be done by wearing the most supportive footwear you have e.g. trainers. To complement this, you can have the ankle strapped, or preferably wear a temporary insole adapted to your arch to offload the ankle.

In some cases where the ankle has weakened significantly from the injury due to ligament damage, exercise programmes designed to specifically strengthen the muscle and tendons around the ankle are important, as well as range-of-motion exercises to ensure that the ankle is not left with reduced movement.

For active sports people, or for those who are on their feet all day due to their job or lifestyle, it is important not to injure and weaken the ankle further, so permanent support may be necessary. These can be in the form of special insoles or orthotics.

Other conditions podiatry treatment will help with after an ankle injury:

  • persistent pain after ankle sprain
  • ankle impingement syndromes
  • tendon dysfunction
  • sinus tarsi syndrome