Ankle physiotherapy can improve strength, flexibility, and stability in an injured ankle. It ideally starts as soon as possible after an injury to promote rapid recovery and ensure the ankle is stabilized and supported throughout healing. Patients may receive basic care from a sports coach or general practitioner. For more complex injuries, a physiotherapy professional may need to supervise the development and administration of a treatment plan.
A full assessment of an injury is the first step in ankle physiotherapy, to determine what is wrong with the ankle and what kinds of treatments might be advised. Rest, ice, compression, and elevation are recommended in the early stages of healing to limit inflammation and prevent further injury by keeping weight off the ankle. Some patients may need medications to manage pain; these can be prescribed if they are particularly strong or specialized, or may be available at a drug store without needing a note from a care provider.
As the initial stages of healing progress, the patient can start ankle physiotherapy exercises. These might include gentle stretching and walking. Directed therapy may be performed in a physiotherapy center to allow patients to be supervised, and to provide access to tools like therapy pools and tubs. Working in a tub allows people to stretch and bend without putting weight and strain on the injured limb, which protects the ankle.
Mild sprains and similar injuries may be treatable with some stretches to use at home, after receiving advice from a coach or care provider. It may also be necessary to refrain from heavy physical activity for up to six weeks after the injury. In more serious cases where surgery was required, longer rest periods may be necessary. The patient could also need directed ankle physiotherapy several days a week, along with exercises to do at home to retain strength and flexibility.
Patients recovering from ankle injuries should closely follow directions about physical activity and get advice before resuming sports, especially if they involve impact to the ankle. A medical practitioner may want to evaluate the patient to confirm that the ankle is healed before offering a clearance to resume normal activity levels. If the ankle is not fully healed, putting strain on it could cause a recurrence of the injury, and might make it even worse in some cases. This could reverse weeks or months of progress made in ankle physiotherapy, and for athletes, it might mean the end of a career instead of a season off.