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Ask the PT – Foot/Ankle/Knee/Hip Sprains and Strains

Hello WSPT,

As an avid athlete who endures sprains and strains of all types throughout the year, I was wondering how physical therapy can help speed up the recovery process as well as help to prevent any further injury in the future. Thank you!


Hi Jim,

Thank you for your question. I want to begin this answer with a disclaimereach body part reacts differently and the best advice I can give any patient is to get a professional evaluation by a doctor or a physical therapist if you think you may have strained or sprained any part of your body. A sprained or strained ankle or foot may seem like a minor issue but if left untreated it can bring in a whole new host of problems.

The first thing we should start with is differentiating between sprains and strains. A sprain is the tearing or stretching of a ligament, which is a short band of fibrous tissue connecting bones, joints, or cartilage. The severity of a sprain is dependent on the nature of the tear (either complete or partial) as well as the location of the ligament affected. A strain is an injury to a muscle or tendon and can range from a mild overstretch to a partial or complete tear.

Ankle sprains are one of the most common injuries in athletes as many athletes run a high risk of falling, twisting, or getting hit on the area. The typical symptoms of a sprain include pain, swelling, or bruising in the area depending on the severity of the injury. A strain, on the other hand, can develop over the course of a few days or weeks due to improperly using or overstressing a muscle. The symptoms usually include pain, muscle weakness or spasms, swelling, and cramping.

Although sprains and strains are different, the treatment for both is usually the same. The R.I.C.E. method (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) is used to treat sprains and strains of all types and a doctor will put a splint or a cast on the injured limb or area. It is also highly recommended that any athlete suffering from these ailments makes an appointment with a physical therapist after being granted clearance by a doctor. Physical therapy can help athletes recover from and avoid sprains by helping them with balance training, flexibility, and improving overall strength through a personalized training program.

The best way to avoid sprains and strains is to keep your body in top shape and and try your best to not do any physical activity if you are tired or in pain. Warming up is essential to avoiding these types of injuries as fully exerting your muscles or joints without stretching can increase the likelihood of a sprain or a strain. You may not be able to prevent all types of sprains or strains if you are a competing athlete but the likelihood of injury will decrease if you by follow these tips and the advice of your doctor and physical therapist.

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