An Osteopathic Approach to Ankle Sprains

An ankle sprain is defined as an injury to the ankle resulting in tearing of one or more ligaments. Ligaments are bands of connective tissue which hold the bones together. The tear or tears may be partial, only going through part of the tendon, or complete. Following a sprain, an individual can notice pain, difficulty weight-bearing, swelling and bruising. The ankle can lose stability depending on how much damage to the ligaments occurs.

Ankle sprains are often treated with rest, ice, compression and elevation of the ankle. In some cases, physical therapy and surgical intervention is required. Osteopathic physicians who do osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) can aid in the healing in both acute and chronic sprains no matter how mild or severe. A study published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association in 2003 showed statistically significant improvement in swelling, pain and range of motion in acute ankle sprains immediately following OMT and at follow-up in a group of patients compared to the group that did not receive OMT. 1

OMT reduces tension in the tissues which reduces pain and swelling, and improves blood flow and range of motion. People who chronically sprain their ankles, or who have not recovered from an acute sprain, almost always have multiple areas of increased or unbalanced tension in their body and a compensated gait. This can sometimes create pain elsewhere in the body. For some patients, this sets them up for re-injury or prevents them from functioning at their previous baseline. Applying OMT to treat the ankle and whole body can improve one’s functional status and help them get back to an active, healthy lifestyle.

1  Eisenhart A, Gaeta T, Yens D. Osteopathic manipulative treatment in the emergency department for patients with acute ankle injuries. JAOA. 2003; 103 (9): 417-421.