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Common Conditions

Ankle Sprains


An ankle sprain is a tear in the ligaments of the ankle. There are two types of ankle sprains mainly eversion ankle sprains which occur when the ankle rolls outward and tears the deltoid ligaments and inversion ankle sprains which occur when twisting the foot upward and the ankle rolls inward. The inversion ankle sprain is the more common of the two types of injuries.

The ankle area has three sections called lateral, medial and high. All three areas of the ankle are prone to painful sprains.
– Lateral ankle sprains are the most common type which injures the ligaments that prevent the foot from rolling inward toward the arch.
– Medial ankle sprains cause damage to the set of ligaments that keep the foot from rolling outward.
– High ankle sprains sometimes called “tib/fib” sprains injure the ligaments that hold your two leg bones together on top of the ankle. A forceful upward movement of the foot and ankle causes this type of ankle sprain.

An inversion ankle sprain often means an injury to one or more of the three main ligaments on the outside of your ankle; the anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL), the posterior talofibular ligament (PTFL) and the calcaneofibular ligament (CFL). The job of a ligament is to join bone to bone and provide stability to a joint. Inversion ankle sprains are also associated with injury to surrounding musculature and can be associated with injury to the capsule surrounding the joint or even a fracture if the injury is severe enough.

There are different grades of inversion ankle sprains. A grade 1 sprain involves injury to only one of the three ligaments on the outside of your ankle. With a grade 1 sprain, the ligament has been overstretched, there is minimal to no tearing of the ligament and the ankle remains stable. A grade 2 sprain occurs when either one of the three ligaments has been fully torn or two of the three ligaments have been partially torn. With a grade 2 sprain, the ankle joint will suffer from some instability. A grade 3 sprain will cause your ankle to be the most unstable and occurs when two of the three ligaments usually the ATFL and CFL are completely torn.

An inversion ankle sprain occurs when the lateral ligaments of the ankle are put on stress if the foot rolls inwards. The inwards rolling of the foot will put the ligaments on the outside of the ankle on stretch and possibly cause them to tear. One common way that inversion sprains occur is as simple as missing a stair step or taking a funny step can also potentially cause a sprained ankle. Another way is participating in sports such as landing a jump on an uneven surface like basketball, volleyball and gymnastics.

When an ankle sprain occurs, ensuring that one receives proper medical and rehabilitation after an ankle sprain is critical to optimize the function of the ankle and to help prevent future ankle sprains. A physical therapist will be able to help through the entire healing process from managing the pain and swelling. A therapist will not only consider the physical ankle sprain but also how it affects daily life at work and in recreation. Recommendations to modify work and home environments will also be provided as well as sharing alternative or modified recreational activities that are safe to participate in based on the condition. Gentle and appropriate home exercises will be given by the therapist to help with healing recovery. A therapist is also trained to determine if gait aids such as crutches, canes and walkers would be appropriate and to ensure they are the appropriate height and style and help teach the right way to use gait aid appropriately with proper technique. Appropriate early care is essential to gaining the optimum function of the ankle later on. While the ankle heals, exercises aimed at regaining the full range of motion the ankle needs to function appropriately and tips to prevent recurrence will be prescribed as well. If in doubt, seek professional advice.