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Ask A PT: Are Ankle Sprains a Reoccurring Issue?

January 30, 2017

Q: “I’ve sprained my ankle, should I worry about this becoming a recurring issue?”

A: “Unfortunately the answer is ‘Yes’. Literature tells us the number one risk factor for sustaining an ankle sprain is having a history of a previous ankle sprain. This means you are more likely to sprain your ankle again if you have ever sprained it in the past. Ankle sprains not cared for properly after injury may go on to cause reoccurring complications for life.

Of course, other impairments could have potentially led to the injury. Weakness in the feet, knees, hips, and even the trunk (core) can predispose someone to an ankle injury. Shoe wear, activity involvement and even training patterns may also play a role.

Though every joint is important, the ankle seems especially important for anything we do while on our feet. In order for us to walk, squat, run, jump, or even climb stairs normally, our ankles must be functioning properly. When an ankle sprain occurs the body’s response is to cause inflammation and begin healing. To do this our body lays down collagen fibers to repair the damaged ligament(s). As is typical during this process, our bodies develop some scar tissue where the injury occurred. Unfortunately, this tissue will never be as strong as it once was prior to the injury, making it important to take even the smallest of sprains seriously. There is always the potential for a serious injury when an ankle sprain occurs.

Research shows in active populations, the more times an individual suffers an ankle sprain the more likely their activity levels are to decrease. This could mean holding off on sports or recreational activities you enjoy, ultimately leading to decreasing health as a result of being less active.

At PT Solutions, our goal is to help the individual return to activity as quickly and safely as possible. Just because a sprain occurred doesn’t mean the ankle shouldn’t be used while it is healing. As it heals we must systematically reintroduce more challenging activity to build up the healing tissue’s tolerance. PT Solutions’ physical therapists assess the whole patient in order to develop a rehabilitation and prevention program not only to recover from the current ankle sprain, but to also prevent additional compensations or injuries from occurring.

For short-term care, using the RICE method may be appropriate.

  • R – Rest; protect the injured area to prevent further injury
  • I – Ice; use ice to reduce pain, decrease the need for pain medication, and improve weight bearing
  • C – Compression; wrap an ACE bandage starting from your toes to your knee
  • E – Elevation; periodically raise the ankle above the level of the heart to help reduce excessive inflammation and swelling.

For more long-term and prevention care, individuals should see a medical professional. Free injury screens are offered at any of our 100+ clinics and are a great way to have the ankle looked at soon after an injury. Physical therapists are trained to screen for fractures or serious vascular complications in the ankle or foot after a sprain occurs and can determine whether an X-ray or MRI is needed.

Are you an individual looking to seek ankle care? Schedule your free injury screen today.


About the PT

Andrew Fix, PT, DPT, originally from Racine, WI, is currently the clinic director at PT Solutions Salt Creek in Hinsdale, IL. He chose to become a physical therapist after being a patient himself at the age of 14 and watching his father go through physical therapy. Andrew received his Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science as well as his Doctor of Physical Therapy at Carroll University in Waukesha, WI. After college, he relocated to Atlanta, Georgia to complete and graduate from the PT Solutions Orthopaedic Residency Program. During his youth and collegiate career, Andrew participated in football, wrestling and track. Nowadays when he is not hiking or lifting weights Andrew enjoys traveling and watching football. He enjoys treating all injuries and conditions, but after undergoing multiple hip surgeries and suffering from multiple ankle sprains and concussions, he has become fond of treating these individuals with concussion symptoms, hip and ankle pain.


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