Schedule Your PT Session 623-323-4332
Physical Therapy, Scottsdale Arizona, Concierge Physical Therapy, Physical Therapy Equipment
Home Join UsAbout UsPartnerships

Ankle Injuries

Dr. Matt Brown
Back to Publications

What are ankle injuries?

Three bones — the tibia and fibula of the lower leg and the talus in the foot — all meet at the ankle, where they’re held together by strong elastic ligaments and attached to muscles by tendons. Ankle injuries typically fall into one of three categories, breaks (bones), sprains (ligaments), and strains (tendons and muscles), which are defined by whether the bone, ligament, or tendon are injured.

A break occurs when one or more of the bones in the ankle are broken. A sprain, on the other hand, results when the ligaments are stretched or torn. If the ankle is strained, it means there has been damage to the muscles or tendons as a result of being stretched beyond their appropriate range of motion. Fractures and sprains, rather than strains, tend to be more common.Source: WebMD

Ankle injuries symptoms

The symptoms of strains, sprains, and breaks can be virtually identical, especially when the injury first occurs. The first signs of any ankle injury are usually pain and difficulty putting weight on the affected ankle. Patients often have to consult with a medical professional to identify exactly what type of ankle injury they’ve experienced.

Sprains and strains are similar in that they both have widely differing levels of severity. Mild strains result when a ligament is overstretched. Moderate sprains result from a partial tear. With a severe sprain, the ligament tears completely or separates from the bone. Both moderate and severe sprains can make the ankle joint unstable, and all types of sprains cause pain, swelling, bruising, and inflammation.

Mild strains (like mild sprains) are caused by overstretching. Moderate and severe strains can both result in loss of muscle function. With a moderate strain, the muscle or tendon is torn partially, while with a severe strain, it may be completely ruptured. With any strain, patients can experience pain, muscle spasms, muscle weakness, swelling, and inflammation.

Patients with breaks and fractures should seek medical attention immediately. While a broken bone will cause pain and instability in the ankle (much like sprains and strains), it may also cause numbness, poor circulation, or bone deformation.

The most common symptoms of ankle injuries include:

  • Pain in the ankle
  • Weakness in the ankle
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Cramping

Source: URMC

What causes ankle injuries?

Almost every ankle injury occurs because the ankle joint has been twisted too far out of its normal alignment. Half of all of these injuries are the result of sports activities, although high-heeled shoes or an uneven floor can also be the culprit. Any time the foot and ankle are suddenly forced into an unnatural position, the patient is at risk of injuring the ankle.

Other common causes of ankle injuries include twisting, rotating, or rolling the ankle, tripping or falling, an awkward landing after a jump or step, or a sudden impact such as a car or bicycle crash.

The most common causes of ankle injuries include:

  • Sports injuries
  • Rolling the ankle
  • Walking or running on an uneven surface
  • Sudden impact
  • Unsafe footwear

Source: WebMD

Physical therapy for ankle injuries

An ankle injury can increase the risk of re-injury to as much as 40 to 70 percent, so it’s important for patients who have injured their ankle to work with a physical therapist to stretch and strengthen the joint and decrease re-injury risk. A physical therapist will typically begin with non-weight bearing exercises, moving on to resisted and weight bearing exercises as the ankle strengthens and recovers.

Common non-weight bearing exercises for the ankle include dorsiflexion (bending the ankle up towards the shin) plantar flexion (pointing the toe and ankle down), inversions, or pointing the ankle inwards, and eversions (pointing the ankle outwards). Once the patient is comfortable with these exercises, they may begin performing the same or similar exercises but with a light resistance band.

Get Started Today

No matter what your goals are, we are here to help you meet those goals.