Step Up: Healing Ankle Injuries One Stride at a Time

Step Up: Healing Ankle Injuries One Stride at a Time

1. Ankle Sprains

Ankle sprains are one of the most common injuries treated by physiotherapists. They typically involve stretching or tearing of the ligaments that support the ankle joint. Physiotherapy for ankle sprains focuses on:

  • Early Management: Using the RICE protocol (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) to reduce swelling and pain.

  • Range of Motion Exercises: Gentle ankle movements to maintain or restore joint flexibility.

  • Strength Training: Progressive exercises to strengthen muscles around the ankle, especially the peroneals and calf muscles, to stabilize the joint.

  • Proprioception and Balance Exercises: Activities such as standing on one leg or using balance boards to improve proprioception and prevent future sprains.

  • Taping or Bracing: Sometimes used initially to provide support and stability during the healing phase.

  • Gradual Return to Activity: A structured plan to reintroduce activities and sports, starting with low-impact exercises and progressing as the ankle strengthens.

2. Ankle Fractures

Ankle fractures can vary in severity from stable fractures that can be managed conservatively to more complex fractures requiring surgery. Physiotherapy aims to:

  • Post-operative Rehabilitation: After surgery, physiotherapy helps manage pain and swelling, regain range of motion, and prevent stiffness.

  • Weight-Bearing Progression: Gradual introduction of weight-bearing exercises to promote bone healing and restore normal gait.

  • Strength and Stability Exercises: Specific exercises to rebuild strength in the ankle and lower leg muscles, which may have weakened due to immobilization.

  • Functional Training: Incorporating activities that mimic daily tasks or specific sports movements to ensure the ankle can handle functional demands.

  • Education on Assistive Devices: Teaching how to use crutches or walkers if needed, and transitioning to normal walking as appropriate.

3. Chronic Ankle Instability

Chronic ankle instability often develops after repeated ankle sprains or inadequate rehabilitation. Physiotherapy focuses on:

  • Identifying Underlying Causes: Assessing contributing factors such as muscle weakness, poor proprioception, or biomechanical issues.

  • Neuromuscular Training: Exercises to enhance muscle reaction times and improve joint stability during dynamic movements.

  • Manual Therapy: Techniques such as joint mobilizations or soft tissue techniques to address any lingering stiffness or restrictions.

  • Sport-Specific Rehabilitation: Tailored programs for athletes to safely return to sport, addressing the unique demands of their activity.

  • Bracing or Orthotics: Recommending supportive devices or orthotics to provide additional stability and reduce the risk of re-injury.

4. Achilles Tendon Injuries

Injuries to the Achilles tendon, such as tendinopathy or ruptures, require specialized physiotherapy approaches:

  • Eccentric Strengthening: Eccentric exercises to gradually load and strengthen the Achilles tendon, promoting healing and reducing the risk of re-injury.

  • Stretching and Flexibility: Gentle stretching to maintain or improve tendon flexibility and reduce stiffness.

  • Gait Analysis: Assessing walking and running patterns to identify any abnormalities that may contribute to tendon stress.

  • Gradual Return to Activity: Progressive loading of the tendon through activities like hopping or running drills, under the guidance of a physiotherapist.

  • Modalities: Use of modalities such as ultrasound or laser therapy to aid in tendon healing and pain management.

5. Posterior Tibialis Dysfunction

This condition involves dysfunction of the posterior tibialis tendon, which supports the arch of the foot. Physiotherapy focuses on:

  • Foot and Ankle Strengthening: Exercises targeting the posterior tibialis and other foot intrinsic muscles to improve arch support and stability.

  • Orthotic Management: Recommending appropriate orthotics or shoe modifications to support the arch and alleviate strain on the tendon.

  • Gait Re-education: Correcting walking patterns to reduce stress on the tendon and improve overall foot mechanics.

  • Manual Therapy: Hands-on techniques to address any joint stiffness or muscle tightness contributing to the dysfunction.

  • Activity Modification: Advising on modifications to activities or sports to prevent exacerbation of symptoms while the tendon heals.

Physiotherapy for ankle injuries is always tailored to the individual's specific condition, rehabilitation stage, and functional goals. It's essential to undergo rehabilitation under the guidance of a qualified physiotherapist to ensure a safe and effective recovery process.

Book an Assessment Today!