Syndesmosis Sprain-n: What Does it Mean & Can Physiotherapy Help My Ankle?

Monday, December 28, 2015

A high-ankle sprain is something that every athlete dreads.  Damage to the ‘syndesmosis’ ligament that joins the shin bone and the fibula i.e. from the knee down to the ankle,  takes a long time to heal.  This can have a dramatic effect on daily life and slow down a sporting career.

What are the symptoms of a high ankle sprain?

High ankle sprains have the same symptoms as other ankle sprains, plus pain when the ankle is turned outwards or the calf is squeezed.  Known as the ‘squeeze test’, many athletes consider it to be the classic method to diagnose a syndesmosis sprain.  However, this isn’t a reliable way to assess an injury and you really should see a doctor or physiotherapist as soon as possible.

How is a high ankle sprain diagnosed?

The only way to get a proper diagnosis and the speedy medical treatment you may need, is to consult your doctor and have special ‘stress view’ X-rays.  These special X-rays will show if there’s abnormal movement between the lower leg bones that the syndesmotic ligament connects.  In addition, an orthopaedic specialist will need to check if the injury is stable or unstable.

What is the best treatment for a high ankle sprain?

If you’ve got a stable injury the usual treatment is to immobilise the ankle with a plaster cast for about 6 weeks.  An unstable injury will probably require surgery to put a screw between the tibia and fibula bones hold them in the correct healing position.  You may need to have the screw in place for about 3 months while the syndesmotic ligament heals.

What is the best way to regain pre-injury strength?

There is only one way to completely recover your ankle’s former strength and range of movement and that’s an individually designed physiotherapy course.  After being immobilised for a long time, your leg muscles will have lost a lot of strength and mobility.  Physio exercises build up the power again and gentle stretching increases your ease of movement.

It’s also essential to have physio joint manipulation as soon as possible to break down the early scar tissue around the injury.  If you don’t, the scar tissue will harden and permanently restrict your range of mobility.

With patience and an active involvement in your physiotherapy you’ll regain your pre-injury fitness and resume your normal activities with no lasting problems!


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