For the 25,000 Americans who suffer ankle injuries every year, physical therapy is a typical treatment option. However, a new study out of Canada questions whether this method actually helps patients heal more quickly.
In a study of 503 people between ages 16 to 79 suffering from ankle injuries, it was found that those who healed using physical therapy and those who healed with “usual care” healed in almost the same amount of time.
“Usual care” included a treatment of painkillers, rest, ice compression, and elevation of the ankle.
Brenda Brouwer, the head of the research team for the School of Therapy at the Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada believes that while physical therapy does have many benefits, it is not crucial for healing.
“There was not a clinically important effect with the standardised physiotherapy regimen provided to our participants,” Brower explains to Health 24.
The physical therapy given to participants involved up to seven 30-minute sessions. Six months after the injury, the rates of healing were similar. Of those who were in the physical therapy group, 57% reported “excellent recovery,” compared to 62% of those in the usual care group.
However, despite these findings, many different doctors across the nation believe that physical therapy is one of the most beneficial techniques to help rehabilitate an injured ankle.
“In my opinion, not every ankle sprain is the same and a lot depends on age, mechanism of injury, activity level, history of prior ankle sprains and [ankle] instability, and presence of any additional injuries,” explains Dr. Aleksey Lasarev. “In my opinion, physical therapy can still play an important role in patient’s recovery and prevention.”
At the end of the day, Dr. Lasarev believes that while healing naturally can be beneficial, physical therapy will help to strengthen not just the bone, but the muscles and ligaments surrounding the injury.