Ankle injuries affect an estimated two million people each year. Because the ankle is a major weight-bearing joint, it is susceptible to sprains, strains, fractures, and other acute and chronic conditions.
If you go without treatment for an ankle injury or repeatedly re-injure the joint, you can suffer lifelong ankle instability, pain, and weakness. A weak or unstable ankle makes it more prone to re-injury.
Many ankle injuries or conditions do not require surgery. Often, a qualified physical therapist can help you recover strength, mobility, flexibility, and range of motion in your injured ankle without surgery.
Common Causes of Ankle Injuries
It may surprise you to learn that your feet and ankles are made up of 26 bones, 33 joints, as well as ligaments, tendons, and muscles. Any movement that places the weight of the body on our legs, feet, and ankles as we move puts the ankles at risk of injury. When we run or jump, our ankles have to bear several times our body weight. This explains why ankle injuries happen so often.
Ankle injuries can occur anytime the ankle is twisted or forced into an unnatural position while bearing body weight. A sprained ankle is the most common ankle injury.
Common causes of ankle injuries include:
- Falling down.
- Walking or running on uneven surfaces.
- Twisting or rolling the ankle.
- Performing a jumping, twisting, or explosive movement.
- Sudden impacts, such as being in a car accident.
- Chronic conditions, like arthritis.
Our MOTION physical therapists have years of experience helping clients recover from the following ankle injuries or conditions:
- Ankle sprains and fractures
- Achilles tendon injuries (especially tendinitis, tendinosis, and tendon rupture)
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Psoriatic Arthritis
- Ankle laxity
- Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome
If possible, it is best to start working with a physical therapist within 72 hours of your injury. Therapy usually starts with non-weight-bearing exercises. If you had ankle surgery, don’t perform any weight-bearing exercise until your surgeon says it is safe to do so.
How Physical Therapy Can Help with Your Ankle Injury
Signs of an ankle injury vary according to the specific condition, but symptoms like swelling, bruising, tenderness, pain, stiffness, impaired range of motion, difficulty in bearing weight to the affected ankle, and warmth to the touch are common to many such injuries.
Our MOTION physical therapists will review your symptoms with you and perform several assessments during your first visit in order to reach a diagnosis. We will refer you for X-rays or other diagnostic tests if needed.
During your first PT visit, we want to learn the details about your ankle injury or condition, including what led up to the injury, and how it occurred. We also want to know what your goals are for recovery.
Please dress comfortably for this and every visit, as we may ask you to move around during the session. Your input is vital, so we ask you to bring notes, observations, questions, and any details regarding your injury or the rehabilitation process to each session.
In order to design the most effective program to treat your condition, we will perform some or all of the following on your first visit:
- A complete physical examination
- A thorough review of your medical history, including X-rays if available
- A pain assessment, including what makes it better or worse
- Strength and range of motion assessment
- Gait evaluation
- Postural assessment
MOTION physical therapists use a variety of diagnostic tools, including the McKenzie Method® of Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy®. This is a well-known system for diagnosing musculoskeletal disorders, including disorders of the ankle. We may use this method or other assessment tools to diagnose your condition.
PT goals for ankle rehabilitation
Our mission at MOTION is “to get you back to what moves you.” Whether your ankle injury is because of an acute or chronic condition, or you are recovering from surgery, our compassionate physical therapists have the expertise to get you back to an active lifestyle, quickly and safely.
The overall goal of a physical therapy program for ankle rehabilitation is to restore ease of mobility. To achieve that goal, we will work with you to:
- Reduce pain
- Strengthen muscles, ligaments, and tendons that support the ankle
- Strengthen core muscles
- Improve range of motion and flexibility
- Teach you correct postures to protect ankle joints
- Teach you how to avoid reinjury
An important component of your recovery includes a home exercise program. Your diligence in performing the home program your physical therapist recommends can speed your recovery and give you the tools you need to protect your ankles long after you complete your work in our clinic.
What exercises and modalities are used to treat ankle injuries?
Your physical therapist may use a combination of manual therapy, exercise therapy, and passive therapy to achieve optimal results. Passive therapies include those that are applied to you, like cold therapy or electrical stimulation therapy, that do not require your active involvement.
While your treatment plan is focusing on recovery from an ankle injury, it is important we also work to strengthen core muscles, including abdominal, back, and pelvic muscles, to improve balance, stability, and gait. This reduces your risk of a reinjury or fall.
The exercises and stretches you perform during physical therapy may cause some discomfort. While some soreness is to be expected during and after exercise, be sure to let your physical therapist know if you experience unusual pain.
We may supplement your exercise program with some of the following modalities:
- Ice or heat therapy
- Recumbent bike
- Soft tissue massage to promote soft tissue healing and break up scar tissue
- Electrical stimulation and ultrasound to relieve pain and increase circulation
- Stretching exercises to increase flexibility ankle joint
- Balance and stability training
Everyone heals at their own pace. If you attend in-clinic physical therapy two or three times a week and consistently perform your recommended home exercise program, you may achieve recovery within six to eight weeks. Each week during clinic visits, we will evaluate your progress and adjust your treatment plan as needed.
If you have sustained a tendon injury, the recovery process may take longer. Tendons do not heal as fast as muscles, and the recovery process must move at a slower pace to avoid re-injury.
Why MOTION for Help with Ankle Injuries?
Our MOTION physical therapy team has been providing quality, transformative physical, occupational, hand, speech, pediatric and work injury therapy services to clients of all ages since 2015. We understand how much you, and each of our clients, value an active, pain-free lifestyle, and we work hard to get you back there as quickly as possible.
We are movement experts, with years of experience helping people reduce or manage pain, regain function, improve balance and flexibility, and learn to prevent future injuries or disabilities. Our compassion, experience, and advanced training make us among the best in the business.
We respect our clients and view each of you as a partner in your rehabilitation. Understanding that you know your body best, we value your input as crucial to your recovery process. Open communication between you and your physical therapist makes the process enjoyable and more effective.
Your commitment to your home exercise program is a key ingredient to your recovery success. By regularly performing the exercises and stretches recommended by your MOTION physical therapist, you will heal faster and reduce your risk for a future injury.
Our mission is to help you regain the highest mobility possible, so you can get back to a happy, active life. Guided by our values of compassion, empowerment, integrity, and teamwork, we promise we will not stop until we accomplish our mission.
Contact us today to schedule an in-clinic or telehealth appointment, or to learn more about our specialty programs for athletes.