When you sprain your ankle, the ankle isn’t the only affected area. It can often lead to pain and discomfort in other parts of your body, including your knees. This happens due to the interconnected nature of your joints and muscles. When your ankle is injured, it can affect your body’s natural movement patterns, including an altered gait and posture. As a result of this, it can add extra stress to your knees and cause pain and discomfort.
Addressing knee pain after an ankle sprain may need a multifaceted approach. It may include rest, proper rehabilitation and physical therapy. Physical therapy can play an essential role in your healing process to help you work to restore your optimal functionality.
Understanding the link between ankle sprains and knee pain
Ankle sprains affect around 2 million people in the U.S. each year. They can cause instability and swelling, making it a challenge for you to bear weight on the affected leg. Compensating can lead you to alter your gait. This alteration can add extra pressure to your knee joint. The knee is designed to bear your body’s weight efficiently. However, the altered movement pattern can cause the ligaments and tendons surrounding the knee to be overused. Overuse can cause your tendons and ligaments to become inflamed and cause you pain.
Ways to address knee pain after an ankle sprain
There are several ways to help address your knee pain after you sprained your ankle, including:
- Rest and ice — After your injury, it’s essential to rest your ankle and apply ice to help reduce the swelling. This immediate and initial approach may help alleviate knee pain by addressing the root cause of the pain — the sprained ankle.
- Compression and elevation — Using compression bandages on your ankle and elevating the affected leg can help reduce swelling. This can help minimize the stress placed on your knee joint.
- Pain management — Over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen can help manage the pain in your ankle and knee. These medications can also help reduce inflammation caused by your injury.
- Physical therapy — Physical therapists can use a variety of exercises and techniques that are intended to help your knee pain that originated from your sprained ankle.
How physical therapy can help your knee pain from an ankle sprain
Physical therapy can play a vital role in helping to address your knee pain from an ankle sprain, through targeted techniques intended to help alleviate discomfort and restore your full range of motion. Your physical therapist will design personalized treatment plans based on your specific needs and concerns. These treatments can help treat the root cause of the pain and any referred pain you may be experiencing. Physical therapy techniques can include:
- Strengthening exercises — Physical therapy can focus on strengthening the muscles around your knee and ankle. Strengthening exercises are intended to enhance your stability and reduce strain. Beneficial exercises can include calf raises, leg presses and squats.
- Total Motion Release® (TMR®) — TMR is an approach that aims to identify and correct your body’s movement imbalances. It can help restore your balance and help promote overall joint function. Physical therapists use gentle exercises and movements tailored to your specific needs.
- Balance exercises — Balance exercises can help improve your coordination, which could be affected by overcompensating from your injured ankle.
- Manual therapy — Manual therapy techniques are hands-on approaches physical therapists use to help relieve muscle tension and can improve your joint motion. Soft tissue mobilization is used with the intention of releasing muscle tension around your knee and ankle to help promote mobility and reduce discomfort. Joint mobilization can help restore your normal joint motion as the physical therapist gently guides your joints through their range of motion. This can help alleviate pressure on your surrounding tissue, promote circulation, and can result in reduced inflammation and pain.
- Graston Technique® — The Graston Technique is a specialized form of manual therapy. Certified physical therapists use specialized stainless steel instruments to help break down scar tissue and fascial restrictions in the muscles, tendons and ligaments. The Graston Technique can help improve joint movement and help reduce stress on the knee and ankle joints.
- Bracing and taping — Physical therapists may recommend ankle braces or taping techniques to help provide additional support to your ankle during recovery. Additional support can help prevent added stress to your knee that can cause you pain.
Your physical therapist may also recommend that you follow a gradual return to activities timeline. This can help you prevent overexertion and allow your body time to heal and adapt to increased demands. Gradual return to normal activities can help you reduce your risk of re-injury or worsening your injury. They may also recommend that you do particular exercises or use heat or cold therapy at home to help boost your recovery process. It’s essential to follow all guidance from your physical therapist during your rehabilitation.
Knee pain from your sprained ankle keeping you down? Forever Fit Physical Therapy & Wellness can help
Our licensed physical therapists at Forever Fit Physical Therapy & Wellness can provide you with a comprehensive approach to your recovery. Physical therapy can play an essential role in overcoming knee pain from a sprained ankle. Our team will guide you through a customized care plan to help you regain mobility, reduce your pain, and help you confidently return to your daily activities.
Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.