A sprained ankle is a common condition that a large proportion of us could potentially suffer from at some point in our lives. This injury occurs when the ligaments that support the ankle stretch to the extent that they tear. The severity of this can vary from mild to severe depending on the amount of damage, and the recovery time can be affected as a result. Although the healing process can be relatively simple – following a method of rest and applying ice over a number of weeks can minimise the pain. The importance of rehabilitation it is often underestimated. Following the right rehab plan at this time can really help reduce the long term effects of this type of injury.

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Treating The Inflammation

At The Mayfair Clinic, there is a certain amount we can do to help reduce the inflammation around the injury, and treat the surrounding tissues to make the area functions effectively – but a solid rehabilitation plan will make the difference between the area healing more completely and the area becoming more prone to sprains in the future. Starting rehabilitation work as soon as you’ve injured the area would certainly not be advised, but beginning a plan of stretches and exercises when the initial pain levels subside, should give you the best chance to rehabilitate the injury well.

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The Rehabilitation Stages

There should be many stages to your rehabilitation, perhaps more depending on the grade of the sprain. There are three grades depending on how much the ligaments have loosened in the injury, and we would recommend that if you’re struggling with a severe sprain (Grade 2 or 3) to come in and visit our practitioners for treatments that will help to heal the area more completely and for targeted advice on specific exercises and stretches for you.

If you have a Grade 1 sprain, or are suffering with only mild pain after a more severe sprain. We recommend three exercises that can be done at work or at home to rehabilitate a sprained ankle. For these exercises, it’s important to stick with them and use them regularly even when the pain has completely subsided as this will help to strengthen the area to prevent future injury as much as possible, and use pain as a guide – do not force the motion if it’s too painful for you. Finally, try completing the exercises between 3-5 times per day and follow up with application of ice for no more than 5 minutes.

Alphabet Tracing

While sitting or standing, trace out the alphabet using your big toe as a guide, your ankle should need to move in all different directions in order to trace the letters effectively. You may feel like the injury is making your ankle feel quite stiff, this exercise will help to improve the range of motion you have in your ankle and should be your first port of call when rehabilitating an injury before moving on to tougher or more weight bearing exercises. As scar tissue forms to repair the injury, completing this type of exercise will ensure you still have a full range of motion and prevent any stiffness in your ankle in the long term.

Standing Calf Stretch

Using gentle stretching will help to relieve the associated stiffness with sprains. This stretch is also called the runners stretch and will help to alleviate stiffness in the calf muscles that can occur in particular with ankle sprains. Stand facing a wall, with your feet about 12 inches or 30 cm away. Keeping your feet flat on the floor, extend one leg out behind you while keeping the knee of that leg straight. Lean towards the wall and support yourself using your hands or arms, while leaning into the wall you should feel a stretch along the back of your lower leg in the calves. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds before switching onto the other leg.

Towel Curls

Place a towel on the floor in front of you. Keeping your heel firmly on the floor, use your toes to hold onto the towel and pull it slowly towards you in multiple attempts. This exercise is designed to only be used once flexibility and range of motion are restored, and little pain still resides in the area, as it will be used to strengthen the ankles to prevent any recurrence of the injury. One of the most beneficial parts of this exercise is that it can easily be adjusted to make the exercise more difficult as your injury heals. Using light weights to hold down the towel, for example a baked bean can, can make this exercise more challenging, but it’s important to only increase when you feel that using the towel on its own is no longer challenging for you.

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The 80% Recurrence Rate

Rehabilitating an injury can be a daunting task if it’s something you’ve never had to do before, the internet can be a minefield of exercises promising to rehabilitate sprained ankles in as little as one week. In reality, scar tissue can take many weeks to form and is not a process that can be significantly sped up without a more advanced treatment approach. Starting with a series of exercises focusing on flexibility and range of motion should be your first port of call as this will affect the way that the scar tissue forms so that you can continue to have good movement in your ankles after the injury has healed. Following these exercises after the injury has begun to improve with a series of muscle strengthening exercises can help to support the injured area so that a recurrence of the injury is much less likely. With many studies showing up to an 80% recurrence rate of an ankle sprain in recovery plans not including any form of rehabilitation – it’s important to not underestimate its importance.

If you’re dealing with a recurring or severe ankle sprain, The Mayfair Clinic can help you rehabilitate effectively by providing advice tailored to your exact needs. Call us today on 0203 947 3222 or email us on info@themayfairclinic.com to discuss your case and book your initial assessment – this will include an examination, diagnosis, first treatment and any x-ray imaging if we think you need it.

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