What You Need to Know About Ankle Sprains

By Dr. Molly Casey

Chiropractic and Ankle Pain

Ankle injuries are a common part of the summer sport season. What is the best natural protocol to care for your sprained ankle after the fact? Can chiropractic help in the healing process? You bet!

Ankle Anatomy

The ankle is complex and made up of a number of different joints. The four main bones are the tibia (distal end), fibula (distal end), the calcaneus, and the talus. The joints also include numerous ligaments and tendons of associated muscles such as gastrocnemius (calf) and anterior tibia (shin) muscles. The main motion of the ankle is a hinge joint with two main movements, plantar flexion (up) and dorsiflexion (down). There are associated movements, inversion (think turning your ankle in with the big toe moving toward the knee and bottom of foot turning inward) and eversion (think pinky toe turning out and top of foot facing the other foot).

Common Injuries

The most common injury to the ankle is an inversion sprain. They are seen frequently with sports-related injuries, certainly in anything involving running or actions that require you to stop and change directions or rotate quickly. A sprain is an injury to the ligaments of the joints, and the fibers are pulled or stretched beyond their normal capacity. An inversion sprain occurs when one rolls the ankle inward, such as when you’re walking down the street and your foot catches the edge of the sidewalk and your ankle buckles. That is an inversion sprain: the sole of the foot moves inward toward the other foot and the lateral or outside ligaments of the joints are injured.

Healing Protocol

It’s rotten when it happens and yet most of us can say that we’ve experienced a sprained/twisted ankle in our lifetime. So what can you do about it?

  • Ice - Immediately following the injury and for the next 3-5 days, use ice as a regular component of your self-care. Go 12-15 minutes on (enough so that the ankle and ligaments get really cold and numb) and one hour off. Repeat this 3-4 times throughout your day.
  • Rest/light movement - Lighten up on your regular routine in life, whatever that is. It doesn’t mean you must stay home all day with your foot elevated. It does mean that you can decrease prolonged periods of time on your feet and forgo your workouts other than light walking. Do perform simple range of motion exercises while resting, moving your foot up and down and side to side very gently.
  • Chiropractic adjustments - Chiropractic adjustments for the pelvis and for the lower extremities, including the ankle joint, can help decrease the time it takes to heal and increase range of motion. Additionally, many patients report decrease in pain. Here is a study that shows chiropractic adjustments should be considered in the treatment and management of young athletes who are experiencing chronic recurrent inversion ankle sprains.
  • Rehab - One area folks tend to forget about, once the swelling has gone down and they’re back to moving around, is the time to start rehabbing the ankle joint. Practicing routine stretches and strength exercises will assist in restoring balance; increasing your ability to perceive where your joint is in space will help your ankle return to full normal function.

The truth is that, at some point, most of us have experienced an ankle sprain and, at least in my book, they aren’t fun. Let your chiropractor walk you through the next right step to heal your ankle sprain. You may also find the advice helps prevent others.

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