Recurrent ankle sprains often involve residual symptoms for which subjects often perform proprioceptive or/and strengthening exercises. However, the effectiveness of mobilization to influence important nerve structures due to its anatomical distribution like tibial and peroneal nerves is unclear. The objective of this study was to analyze the effects of proprioceptive/strengthening exercises versus the same exercises and manual therapy including mobilizations to influence joint and nerve structures in the management of recurrent ankle sprains. Fifty-six patients with recurrent ankle sprains and regular sports practice were randomly assigned to experimental or control group. The control group performed 4 weeks of proprioceptive/strengthening exercises; the experimental group performed 4 weeks of the same exercises combined with manual therapy (mobilizations to influence joint and nerve structures). Pain, self-reported functional ankle instability, pressure pain threshold (PPT), ankle muscle strength, and active range of motion (ROM) were evaluated in the ankle joint before, just after and one month after the interventions. The within-group differences revealed improvements in all of the variables in both groups throughout the time. Between-group differences revealed that the experimental group exhibited lower pain levels and self-reported functional ankle instability and higher PPT, ankle muscle strength and ROM values compared to the control group immediately after the interventions and one month later.
A protocol involving proprioceptive and strengthening exercises and manual therapy (mobilizations to influence joint and nerve structures) resulted in greater improvements in pain, self-reported functional joint stability, strength and ROM compared to exercises alone.