Is Your Ankle in Agony? You Might Need a Physical Therapist
It’s an all-too-common scenario: You trip over a clod of turf or get knocked down in a game, only to find that your ankle no longer bears your weight when you try to stand up again. Ankle sprains and strains affect joggers, sprinters, football players, and almost any other type of athletes you can name. But ankle pain can also occur due to other, more slow-growing causes — and these problems can prove just as debilitating when mobility is an important part of your performance. This blog will help you get to gain a better understanding of ankle conditions and why you should contact Willow Physical Therapy today for advice and assistance.
Strains, Sprains, and Other Causes of Ankle Pain
The structure we call the ankle is a surprisingly complex assembly of bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, muscles, and nerves. It doesn’t simply tilt upward and downward, like a hinge; it’s also capable of turning inward and outward to some degree. Whenever any condition or trauma impairs this structure’s ability to support and articulate the ankle, ankle pain is likely to plague you as an unfortunate side effect.
Two of the most common acute ankle injuries are strains and sprains. A strain occurs when a muscle or tendon is stretched or torn. A sprain is the same kind of damage, occurring in a ligament. Either injury can cause intense pain and swelling and reduced range of motion. Strains may also cause muscle spasms, while sprains are more likely to produce visible bruising. (If you heard an audible popping or clicking noise when you hurt your ankle, you’re looking at a sprain.)
But sprains and strains aren’t only ankle afflictions that can hobble an athlete. An ankle fracture can be even more debilitating than either of these injuries, requiring extensive immobilization in a cast or walking boot. Chronic ankle pain may be caused by arthritis, gout (a form of arthritis that often affects the foot), tarsal tunnel syndrome (a form of nerve impingement caused by surrounding tissue inflammation), and bursitis (inflammation of the cushioning structures in the ankle joint).
How Physical Therapy Can Get Your Ankle Back in Order
An acute ankle injury requires the immediate attention of your family doctor or an emergency room. X-rays can usually determine whether you have a fracture. If you have a strain or sprain, you’ll need to apply first aid in the form of a protocol known as R.I.C.E — rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Anti-inflammatory medications can also help you reduce some of the pain and swelling. Other forms of treatment such as chiropractic adjustment or physical therapy will have to wait until the initial trauma has subsided.
If you’re suffering from a milder injury or chronic ankle condition, you may be able to proceed with physical therapy right away. Depending on your condition, goals, and symptoms, our physical therapist may prescribe non-weight-bearing physical therapy exercises such as:
- Plantar flexion.
- Inversion/eversion (pointing the feet toward the left or right).
- “Drawing” the letters of the alphabet with your toes.
- Gentle isometric exercises to build ankle muscle strength.
- Resistance training with a TheraBand looped around the foot.
Our physical therapy team may supplement these exercises with soothing physical therapy techniques such as massage therapy, heat, ice, or ultrasound therapy.