5 Reasons You Should Always Seek Treatment for a Sprained Ankle

5 Reasons You Should Always Seek Treatment for a Sprained Ankle

Sprained ankles are common, especially for athletes and physically active people. Unless the sprain is severe, many people simply ice, wrap and elevate, and never seek professional sprained ankle treatment. But ignoring or self-treating a sprained ankle is a recipe for dysfunction and injury later in life.

Here are 5 important reasons why you should get professional sprained ankle treatment, even after you think your ankle has healed:

  • Risk of osteoarthritis: One of the greatest risks after a joint injury is the development of osteoarthritis, several years later. Symptoms of joint osteoarthritis include pain, stiffness, crackling and popping, and reduced range of motion. When hip and knee osteoarthritis become severe, the joint can be replaced with a prosthetic and the patient can resume near-normal function. But the outcomes of ankle replacement surgery are often far less optimistic. An ankle replacement can leave you with an unnatural walking gait and multiple disabilities that dramatically reduce your quality of life. Early treatment and rehabilitation can reduce your osteoarthritis risk and improve your ankle function, now and in the future.
  • Increased instability: An ankle sprain causes damage to the ligaments, tough connective tissues with limited blood flow and low elasticity. As the ankle rolls and bears weight in an unnatural position, ligaments are stretched and torn. Some sprains cause micro tears that are hardly noticeable, but some can be severe, dramatically impacting your ankle’s ability to support and stabilize your body weight. Walking on a sprained ankle is never a good idea, regardless of the severity. An unstable ankle increases your risk of injury while walking, running or playing sports.
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  • Compensation patterns: After an ankle sprain, especially a very painful one, it is natural to shift your weight to the uninjured leg as you stand and walk. But over time, compensation patterns can become habitual, and they affect more than just your ankle. Shifting your body weight also shifts your center of gravity in the direction of the supporting leg, and this in turn alters your posture along your body’s entire kinetic chain. Over time, your gait and stance are negatively affected, and joints and muscles throughout your body are overused, misused and thrown out of whack, setting you up for pain and reducing your overall physical performance.
  • Gait deficiencies: To be efficient, gait should be symmetrical on both the right and left sides of your body. When you have an ankle sprain, your gait mechanics can quickly erode, causing uneven force distribution that harms your joints and sets you up for ankle, knee, hip and back pain. A deficient gait affects your upper body as well, and can lead to postural, neck and shoulder issues.
  • Sensory-motor deficits: Even a minor ankle sprain can cause irreparable damage to your sensory-motor system. This results in alterations in biomechanics, gait, proprioception, balance, postural stability and other issues. Research shows that even the smallest ankle sprain damages the cartilage of your ankle joint. Physical therapy treatment that includes sensory-motor retraining is critical to restoring symmetrical gait mechanics and ankle function.

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Physical Therapy Treatment for Ankle Instability

After an ankle sprain, multiple deficits related to ankle instability need to be addressed, to prevent osteoarthritis and to return safely to sport. They include:

Physical Therapy Treatment for Ankle Instability
  • Postural control
  • Kinematics
  • Muscle activity
  • Strength
  • Balance
  • Proprioception
  • Reweighing
  • Range of motion
  • Ligament laxity

One of the most common sensory deficits after an ankle sprain is the inability to estimate how much weight-bearing load your ankle can support. At NYDNRehab, we restore sensory-motor function using a reweighing platform in combination with Kineo intelligent loading. Kineo simulates ankle instability, while the reweighing platform stimulates your muscle receptors to help reprogram your brain for optimal motor control.

Sprained Ankle Treatment in NYC

At NYDNRehab, we are big on cutting-edge technologies that let us test, train and quantify musculoskeletal conditions. Viewing the structures of your ankle with high resolution diagnostic ultrasonography helps us determine the most appropriate and effective treatment approach for your individual case. Ultrasound also lets us do superior microvascular imaging (SMI) to detect blood flow to your injury, and sonoelastography to test tissue tension and elasticity.

Some of our favorite treatment tools for ankle sprains includes:

  • Myolux electronic ankle proprioception rehabilitation device
  • APOS instability shoe
  • Posturo/propriomed platform
  • DD Robotech artificial intelligence retraining device for neuro motor control
  • Kineo intelligent load system
  • Vibration platform
  • Multi-sensory reweighing platform

In addition, we use perturbation training with C.A.R.E.N, our computer assisted rehab environment, to restore balance and proprioception, along with various physical therapy exercises to strengthen your ankle and restore functional range of motion. Your ankle sprain rehab program may include chiropractic care, to help restore spinal alignment and postural control that were lost due to compensation patterns. Many of your sprained ankle treatment sessions can be done remotely via TeleHealth, a secure online system that lets you access effective physical therapy treatment from anywhere in the world.

About the Author

Dr. Lev Kalika is clinical director of NYDNRehab, located in Manhattan. Lev Kalika is the author of multiple medical publications and research, and an international expert in the field of rehabilitative sonography, ultrasound guided dry needling and sports medicine Dr. Kalika works with athletes, runners, dancers and mainstream clients to relieve pain, rehabilitate injuries, enhance performance and minimize the risk of injuries. His clinic features some of the most technologically advanced equipment in the world, rarely found in a private clinic.

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In this instance, an athlete was originally diagnosed with minor quadriceps muscle strain and was treated for four weeks, with unsatisfactory results. When he came to our clinic, the muscle was not healing, and the patients’ muscle tissue had already begun to atrophy.

Upon examination using MSUS, we discovered that he had a full muscle thickness tear that had been overlooked by his previous provider. To mitigate damage and promote healing, surgery should have been performed immediately after the injury occurred. Because of misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment, the patient now has permanent damage that cannot be corrected.

The most important advantage of Ultrasound over MRI imaging is its ability to zero in on the symptomatic region and obtain imaging, with active participation and feedback from the patient. Using dynamic MSUS, we can see what happens when patients contract their muscles, something that cannot be done with MRI. From a diagnostic perspective, this interaction is invaluable.

Dynamic ultrasonography examination demonstrating
the full thickness tear and already occurring muscle atrophy
due to misdiagnosis and not referring the patient
to proper diagnostic workup

Demonstration of how very small muscle defect is made and revealed
to be a complete tear with muscle contraction
under diagnostic sonography (not possible with MRI)

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Complete tear of rectus femoris
with large hematoma (blood)

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Separation of muscle ends due to tear elicited
on dynamic sonography examination

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