Whatever you do – don’t immobilise it.

In the past acute ankle injuries such as sprains and strains which commonly affect the ligaments on the outside of the ankle joint were treated with heavy strapping and taping.  Now management of the condition involves much less immobilisation and much more active rehabilitation.  Let us explain why.

Ankle ligament injuries look spectacular.  They produce a lot of swelling rapidly and can quickly turn feet, toes and shins wonderful shades of blue, black and purple.  In cases of extreme pain to the ankle joint following a twist or a fall, it’s necessary to have an x-ray to exclude the possibility of a fracture to the bones of the joint.  However, assuming it’s only soft tissue damage – we should not be tempted to strap the ankle.

While, a compression bandage may play a role in limiting inflammation and swelling, any more “heavy duty” strapping restricts ankle movement excessively.  This leads to longer rehabilitation times and a slower return to sport, activity and normal function.  If patient’s attempt to move the ankle as much as possible following the sprain, it facilitates a quicker recovery and enables restoration of normal function much sooner.  Furthermore early mobilisation of the ankle reduces swelling and inflammation, while speeding up the healing process.

The key message with ankle sprains is if it’s not broken – don’t immobilise it!  Keep it moving.  Although it may be sore, you’ll get back in action much sooner!