High Ankle Sprain Treatment & Exercises

An anatomical model of the human ankleAnkle sprains are among the most common injuries in the United States, although they are sometimes confused with strains. Unlike a strain, even a “simple” ankle sprain can easily turn into a lifelong problem. Especially problematic are high ankle sprains. People with untreated high ankle sprains can develop long-term ankle pains and weakness.

So, what is a high ankle sprain?

The difference between a high ankle sprain and the common ankle sprain lies in the different sets of joint ligaments affected by either injury. A high ankle sprain is caused by stress on the ligaments above the ankle, known as syndesmosis. They are located between the tibia and fibula and act as a shock absorber for the ankle joint. 

Common Causes of High Ankle Sprains

The syndesmosis is located in a high-pressure joint, particularly when sprinting and jumping. Sudden turning, cutting, or twisting motion at high-pressure moments can result in a high ankle sprain. This issue is most common among athletes in high-pressure sports such as soccer, football, volleyball, lacrosse, and basketball.

What is the Proper Treatment for High Ankle Sprains?

One of the most common questions we hear at Cawley Physical Therapy is, “How long does it take to heal a sprained ankle?” The answer to that question isn’t easy to answer, however, as it depends on multiple factors, including what kind of treatment the patient receives.

Most high ankle sprains do not necessitate surgery. Instead, splinting of the ankle joint is recommended to reduce the ankle’s range of motion (ROM). To reduce swelling, physicians often recommend icing and elevation of the ankle. However, icing should be limited to a maximum of 20 minutes to avoid further swelling.

Until the acute inflammatory phase of the high ankle sprain is over, it might be advisable to use crutches for easier ambulation. Proper ROM, strength, and stability are key for your return to desired activities.

Close-up of a person's hands cradling a sprained ankle

Physical Therapy and Appropriate Ankle Exercises

Therapy focuses on balance and proprioception (a sensory nerve ending in muscles, tendons, and joints that provides a sense of the body’s position by responding to stimuli from within the body) to not reinjure the joint.

Physical therapy aims to ease the pain and make it easier to perform your daily tasks. You may need physical therapy for:

  • Pain relief,
  • Recover from sports injuries,
  • Avoid surgery or disability,
  • Rehabilitation after an accident, surgery, or stroke,
  • Adapt to artificial limbs, etc.

Ankle and Knee Exercises to Improve Strength and Endurance

Two to three days after your injury, you should be able to begin working on your range of motion. These exercises include: 

  • Moving your ankle in circles repeatedly (at least thrice daily)
  • Extending your leg so that your toes point straight away from you
  • Towel curls, and
  • Calf stretch

After getting your ankle’s range of motion back to normal, you can begin strength and endurance exercises to help improve your ankle stability. These exercises can be repeated 3 to 5 times daily. They include:

  1. Flex: Sit in a comfortable chair with your feet extended on the floor. Placing the good foot on the injured one, flex the front end of your injured foot while applying some pressure on the ankle with your other foot. Repeat the process 5 to 10 times daily.
  2. Inward Bend: Sit in a comfortable chair with your feet together and lay flat on the floor. With your big toes and heels in contact, slowly turn your injured foot toward the other and hold for 5 to 10 seconds. 
  3. Outward Bend: Beginning in the same position as the latter, you will now move your injured foot outward. Hold at the furthest range for 5 to 10 seconds. 

Get the High Ankle Sprain Treatment at Cawley Physical Therapy

Most ankle sprains do not necessitate surgery. Nevertheless, it is essential to have a physical therapist evaluate the condition of your high ankle sprain. The qualified healthcare professionals at Cawley Physical Therapy will work closely with you to create a care plan for your ankle and perform hands-on treatment for your swelling and pain. 

If you have ankle swelling, pain, or difficulty walking due to a niggling high ankle sprain, you had better get it checked before any adverse symptoms arise. To learn more about the advantages of physical therapy for high ankle sprains, log on to our website or give us a call at 570-208-2787.