Ankle injuries are one of the most common of all injuries treated by physical therapists. As a load-bearing joint, the ankle takes the brunt of every misstep, and whether a person encounters an obstacle, places the foot on the ground at an odd angle, or slips on a patch of ice, it is imperative to treat an injured ankle correctly. Otherwise, the injured party is likely to suffer from chronic pain and a high risk of re-injury. Depending on the severity of the injury, there may be a standard course of treatment one can expect from ankle physical therapy.
Ankle issues range from mild sprains and arthritis to severe fractures and complete ankle replacements. Regardless of the issue, a course of physical therapy will focus on a few key areas. These areas include pain management and prevention, range of motion, strength, balance, and mobility. Some improvement in each of these areas is the minimum one can expect from ankle physical therapy. Physical therapy is prescribed by a physician and may take place at a hospital, physical therapy rehabilitation center, or private doctor's office.
On the first visit, the patient will receive an assessment and a customized plan from a physical therapist or a physical therapy assistant. Range of motion and level of mobility will be documented so the physical therapist and prescribing physician will be better able to judge improvement and adjust treatment accordingly. Exercises might include soaking the ankle in a whirlpool bath of heated water while trying to draw each letter of the alphabet with the foot, followed by assisted stretching exercises administered by the physical therapist. Something else that may be expected from ankle physical therapy is homework. A patient might meet with a therapist twice a week, but will be expected to exercise the ankle each day to maintain movement.
As therapy progresses, something else that you can expect from ankle physical therapy is advancement from seated stretching exercises to standing weight bearing exercises. As range of motion and flexibility increases, a program will begin to focus more on strength and balance. Progression through the various exercises is highly dependent on the severity of the injury, but one final thing a patient can expect from ankle physical therapy is improvement that correlates with effort. Those who are committed to a physical therapy program and follow the exercises as assigned will reap the highest benefits.