The effects of intermittent compression on edema in postacute ankle sprains

J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 1991;14(2):65-9. doi: 10.2519/jospt.1991.14.2.65.


The purpose of this study was to compare the effects of three treatment protocols on pitting edema in patients with first- and second-degree sprained ankles. Thirty subjects with postacute (greater than 24 hours postinjury) ankle sprains and pitting edema but not requiring cast immobilization were randomly assigned to an elastic wrap group (N = 10), an intermittent compression group (N = 10), or an elevated control group (N = 10). Pretreatment and posttreatment volumetric measurements of the subjects' ankles were obtained by the water displacement method. After the pretreatment measurement, the groups were treated for 30 minutes. All subjects' ankles were elevated by raising the foot section of an adjustable table to a 45 degrees angle during treatment. For the first treatment group, the intermittent compression device was set at 40-50 mm Hg, with a 60-second on time and a 15-second off time. For the second treatment group, an elastic wrap was applied from the heads of the metatarsals to 12.7 centimeters above the malleoli. Control group subjects received only the elevated position as their treatment. A three by two repeated measures ANOVA with a follow-up post hoc test revealed that the elevated control group subjects had the least amount of edema (p < .0006). The two compression protocols produced increased edema in the subjects' sprained ankles following treatment. In conclusion, elevation is the most appropriate of the three treatment protocols if the major therapeutic objective is to minimize edema in the postacute phase of rehabilitation. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 1991;14(2):65-69.