Common Injury: Ankle Sprains

Ankle sprains are a common musculoskeletal injury, causing a great deal of pain and loss of function. Of patients presenting with ankle sprains, 25 percent miss work for more than 7 days, and long-term risks include a high possibility for re-injury and residual deficits. Classic treatment of ankle sprains includes protection, rest, ice, compression, elevation, and sometimes non-weight bearing with crutches or immobilization. Is this the best course of treatment for an ankle sprain?

This subject is being extensively researched and the results might be surprising to you. A recent study reported in the British Medical Journal compared two groups of patients that sustained ankle sprains. One group had standard treatment (including rest and no exercising) while the other group started therapeutic exercises during the first week of injury. Both groups then started ankle rehabilitation at one week post-injury. The results showed that the patients in the initial exercise group reported significantly better ankle function at 2 weeks post-injury as compared to the group with standard treatment. Patients in the exercise group were more active, with increased time spent walking, step count, and time spent in light physical activities compared with those in standard treatment.

The days of lying on the couch for a week with an ankle sprain are gone, and rightfully so. Early rehabilitation and exercising will restore function more rapidly, thus decreasing the time on light duty. This can help restore a happier, more productive employee.

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