Ankle Pain

Tradies have among the highest number of injuries, musculoskeletal conditions and other health and safety risks of any profession.

With every step, shock is absorbed by the feet, knees, hips and spine to decrease the force of impact. Wearing the correct footwear will reduce these forces further whilst not affecting the normal function of the foot. Wearing the right footwear for the job protects you from stress-related injury to the ankles, knees, hips and spine.

Types of Sprains

The most common type of sprain is a Lateral Ankle Sprain/inversion sprain (or lateral ligament sprain) where the foot turns inwards, damaging the ligaments on the outside of the ankle.

A sprain where the ankle turns inwards (Medial Ankle Sprain) is much rarer often taking significant forces to do so. This sprain damages the ligaments on the inside of the ankle.

In addition to ligament damage there may also be damage to tendons, bone and other joint tissues, which is why it is important to get a professional to diagnose your ankle sprain. If possible an X-ray should be used, as small fractures or (avulsion fracture) are not uncommon.

Grades of Ankle Sprains

Sprained ankles, as with all ligaments sprains, are divided into grades 1-3, depending on their severity:

Grade 1 sprain:

  • Some stretching or perhaps minor tearing of the lateral ankle ligaments.
  • Little or no joint instability.
  • Mild pain.
  • There may be mild swelling around the bone on the outside of the ankle.
  • Some joint stiffness or difficulty walking or running.

Grade 2 sprain:

  • Moderate tearing of the ligament fibers.
  • Some instability of the joint.
  • Moderate to severe pain and difficulty walking.
  • Swelling and stiffness in the ankle joint.
  • Minor bruising may be evident.

Grade 3 sprain:

  • Total rupture of a ligament.
  • Gross instability of the joint.
  • Severe pain initially followed later by no pain.
  • Severe swelling.
  • Usually extensive bruising.

Treatment of Ankle Sprains

As soon as possible, and for 72 hours after injury, use the RICE method:

Rest – Take it easy and only move within your limit of pain.

Ice – As soon as possible, and for 20 minutes every two hours, apply ice or a frozen gel pack wrapped in a damp towel. This helps to control bleeding and pain whilst reducing secondary tissue damage.

Compression – Firmly bandage the entire ankle and lower shin. This helps to control swelling.

Elevation – As much as possible, elevate your ankle higher than the level of your heart to reduce swelling.

Following the initial painful stage, there are other treatments that can help the ankle return to normal as soon as possible. Range of motion exercises such as ankle circles can help to get the ankle moving again, as well as reducing swelling if performed with the leg elevated. The calf muscles often tighten up to protect the joint following a sprained ankle, and so gently stretching the calf muscles can also help to maintain movement at the joint.

A wobble board / balance board is an important part of the rehabilitation of ankle sprains.

There are many different causes of ankle pain and the quickest way to heal an ankle injury is to get a proper diagnosis. The treatment for one injury is can be quite different to another. This is mostly due to the complexity of the ankle and as such the right advice can make all difference.