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Ankle sprain: what to do and when to consult? 


Florence Charbonneau-Dufresne


Twisting your ankle happens quite frequently. Sometimes it is quite commonplace and it is possible to continue your activities immediately.

On the contrary, it could be that the pain is very intense that it prevents you from walking; it is then better to go to the hospital and have x-rays to check that there is nothing broken.

What is an ankle sprain?

First of all, it must be understood that a sprain is the stretching of a ligament in a greater than normal amplitude. The role of the ligaments is to stabilize the different bones of the body between them. At the level of the ankle, several ligaments can be affected, and this at different degrees of stretching (grade 1: elongation, grade 2: partial tear, grade 3: complete tear). It is therefore understood that there are multiple cases of ankle sprains and that the symptoms can vary greatly from one individual to another.

What to do ?

In acute cases, i.e. a period of 48 to 72 hours after the injury, it is recommended to apply the IREC method: ice, rest, elevation, compression. It is therefore necessary to apply ice for 15 minutes every hour on the affected/painful region, then to elevate the foot if there is swelling. A physiotherapist elastic bandage can guide you to optimize tissue healing so that you can fully regain the mobility, strength and control necessary to resume your normal activities.

If you are a very active person, it is advisable to consult a physiotherapist following a minor ankle sprain. Indeed, even if you do not have a lot of pain and you can return to your activities immediately, it often happens that the joints of the foot become stiffer and that proprioception is affected following a sprain. Since the foot is less mobile and the sense of balance is affected, this can put you at risk of further injury to the ankle or adjacent joints (eg knee, hip, foot), especially if you exercise frequently.

Florence Charbonneau-Dufresne, Pht, M.Sc.