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Physical Therapy vs. Self-care for a Sprained Ankle

Man participating in physical therapy for sprained ankle

A recent, randomized trial found that physical therapy may be no more effective than self-care, at-home treatment for a sprained ankle.

According to the New York Times, “Canadian researchers randomly assigned 503 patients ages 16 to 79 to one of two groups. The first received up to seven sessions of supervised physical therapy, with isometric resistance exercises, strength training, stretching and other guided techniques to restore pain-free stability. The second was sent home with instructions for the usual care — a one-page sheet listing information about keeping the ankle elevated, applying compression and ice, and gradually increasing movement and weight bearing.”

The study asked participants to fill out a questionnaire about quality of life and symptoms. It found no significant difference in the two groups.

While these are certainly interesting findings, it’s always up to you how you want to address a sprained ankle. Many will see a doctor, and then can choose if they’d like to pursue therapy or at-home methods.

This is also a good reminder that fitness instructors are not medical professionals. Be cautious when it comes to participants or colleagues’ injuries. I would recommend avoiding offering diagnosis, and always encouraging others to speak to their doctor.

For more news and trends affecting Group X instructors, check out the group exercise ideas and tips page.