Physiotherapy After Ankle Sprains

Last updated: 10-09-2020

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Physiotherapy After Ankle Sprains

According to a new study, physiotherapy may not provide more benefits after an ankle sprain than simple rest and ice. Although that headline may be surprising, it doesn’t paint a full picture of the total affects an unmanaged sprained ankle can have on your whole body.

For the study, researchers at two Canadian hospitals looked at a sample of 503 patients between the ages of 16 and 79 who sought treatment for either mild or moderate ankle sprains. Patients were randomly divided into two groups; one received normal conservative care, while the other received conservative care and physiotherapy. Those in the physiotherapy group received up to seven 30-minute sessions of targeted physiotherapy.
Physiotherapy Results

Six months down the road, patients were asked to fill out a questionnaire in which they were asked to assess their current level of pain, their level of ankle function in normal activity and during exercise, and their overall quality of life.

Researchers found that 43 percent of people who received physiotherapy had failed to achieve “excellent recovery” after six months, slightly worse than the 38 percent in the usual care group who failed to achieve the same result. This has left researchers wondering if there are better strategies for managing ankle sprains.

Not surprisingly, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy didn’t necessarily agree with the results, issuing a statement saying “The evidence base for physiotherapy intervention is broad, with the vast majority finding that rehab exercise improves function and reduces the risk of future injury. However, for many patients with a simple soft tissue injury – this may only require self-management applying the Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation principle. For those that need it, with persistent disabling pain or where they are unable to do their normal daily activities, physiotherapists can provide full assessment, treatment and advice.”

The statement by the CSP rings true. Certainly some mild ankle sprains can heal just with with Rest, Ice Compression and Elevation, but ignoring the sprain or trying to push through it can make problems worse. Physiotherapy and physical therapy have worked wonders for a number of my patients dealing with instability, and oftentimes they find more benefit when the do more than one session a month, which is essentially what happened in the above study. If you’re dealing with ligament damage or joint problems after an ankle sprain, physical therapy will certainly be your friend.


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