Unraveling the Tangle of Lateral Ankle Sprains: Causes and Recovery Strategies

Unraveling the Tangle of Lateral Ankle Sprains: Causes and Recovery Strategies

Ankle sprains are all too familiar, with many of us having experienced the discomfort and pain they bring. But what exactly happens when we sprain our ankles? The answer lies in the overstretching of ligaments—strong, fibrous bands of tissue that provide stability around the ankle. In the case of lateral ankle sprains, the ligaments on the outer side of the ankle are overextended, resulting in pain, bruising, and swelling. This type of sprain often occurs when the toes turn inward, and the ankle rolls outward.

Causes and Risk Factors:

Understanding the causes and risk factors for lateral ankle sprains is crucial for prevention and effective management. Key contributors include:

  • Previous or existing ankle injuries
  • Reduced strength and stability around the ankle
  • Poor balance and postural control
  • Limited dorsiflexion range (ability to bend the ankle upwards)
  • Wearing inappropriate footwear for certain activities

Immediate Care after an Ankle Sprain:

Upon experiencing an ankle sprain, it's essential to initiate the RICE protocol (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) and adhere to the "No HARM" principle (No Heat, Alcohol, Running, Massage) for the first 2-5 days. These measures help control pain and swelling, promoting the body's natural healing processes.

Recovery Strategies:

  • Restoring Range of Motion:
  • Ankle dorsiflexion range is critical in preventing ankle sprains. Calf stretches can aid in restoring this range of motion after a sprain.
  • Strengthening Exercises:
  • Comprehensive ankle recovery involves strengthening in all planes of motion. Exercises that target upward, downward, inward, and outward ankle movements contribute to a robust recovery.
  • Proprioception Training:
  • After a sprain, the ankle's proprioceptors, which sense movement, may be damaged. This can lead to delayed responses to dangerous positions, increasing the risk of recurring sprains. Research indicates that static and dynamic balance training effectively enhances proprioception, reducing the likelihood of future ankle sprains (Schiftan et al., 2016).

Lateral ankle sprains may be a common injury, but understanding their causes and implementing effective recovery strategies is pivotal. From immediate care to rehabilitation exercises, a holistic approach ensures a smoother recovery and reduces the risk of recurrent sprains. If you've experienced an ankle sprain, consulting with a physiotherapist can provide personalized guidance, accelerating your journey back to stability and mobility. Stay tuned for our next blog, where we'll explore advanced exercises for ankle sprain rehabilitation.

Andrew Huynh

Hi everyone, I’m Andrew and I head ESPR Therapy & Training. I’m passionate about helping people discover their potential and achieving their goals. For me, that means building resilience and strength (both physical and mental) in you to overcome whatever obstacles you’re facing. I completed my Bachelors in physiotherapy at the University of Sydney in 2017 which has taken me to both public and private sectors. A key highlight of my career is working within an elite NPL 1 soccer team which involved modifying training loads and integrating rehab programs to help athletes recover and return to the field ASAP. Over the years, I developed an interest in the area of strength and conditioning which led me to complete an internship at one of Sydney’s most renowned S&C gyms - Ethos Performance. From this, I learnt how to program training blocks so that athletes can gain the specific movement qualities that will enhance their sporting performance. I have also completed further study & training in pain science and dry needling which allowed me to understand and minimise patients symptoms. Outside of work, I train regularly in MMA and spoil my 2 beautiful pupperinos - Nala and Kira - to bush walks and hikes. If you have an injury or training goals, I’ve got your back!