If you have injured your ankle playing sport, a quick recovery is can be helped by following the RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) principle for the first 48-72 hours. This helps to reduce the bleeding and swelling in the tissues, assists with pain control, and often enables you to walk more comfortably.
After an ankle injury, a physiotherapist will need to determine whether the pain is coming from soft tissue (ligaments, muscle, tendon) or hard tissue (bone). We will look for any swelling and visible deformity at the ankle and foot, and touch certain spots to see if they are painful.
If we suspect that a bone is broken, referring you for an x-ray is how we can confirm this.
Other Signs that you may need an X-ray include:
a) If you heard a ‘crack’ or ‘pop’ after hurting your ankle – particularly if it is a traumatic incident during play (ie. another player landed on their ankle)
b) If there was instant pain when your hurt your ankle
c) If you were unable to walk on your ankle straight away
If your ankle is significantly swollen after an injury, sometimes a physiotherapist may suggest continuing the RICE principle for a few more days, and using crutches to walk to avoid putting weight through the foot. Sometimes after a severely sprained ankle, you may need crutches – but only to help you put weight through the foot when walking or going up stairs. We recommend you try and walk normally as soon as possible (even if you need regular pain relief) because this will help your ankle regain movement and function. Having an x-ray later, after the swelling has settled, can help the radiologist view the underlying bones more easily.
If there has been enough force to break a bone, the associated joints may be subluxed or dislocated (out of normal position). If you have a fracture and/or dislocation at your ankle or foot, you need to be promptly seen by a doctor to decide on the most appropriate course of action. The doctor may decide on using a Moonboot or plaster to immobilise the ankle joint or an orthopaedic surgeon may need to operate to repair the damage.
You should not manage a sprained ankle yourself as:
a) there is an increased risk of the joint not healing properly
b) it may take much longer than normal to heal
c) you may experience further issues
d) there is an increased risk of the same injury occurring again in the future.
If you’ve injured your ankle and it is still too painful to walk normally, a review with a physiotherapist at myPhysioSA will help determine whether you need an x-ray.
David Wilson, myPhysioSA Partner Physiotherapist