The role of compression in the management of soft tissue ankle injuries: a systematic review

Eur J Orthop Surg Traumatol. 2015 Aug;25(6):987-95. doi: 10.1007/s00590-015-1607-4. Epub 2015 Feb 4.


Background: Ankle sprains are very common injuries which can lead to long-term pain, swelling and instability. Compression is often used in the treatment of these common injuries but is it effective and how best is it delivered?

Methods: MEDLINE (1966-current), EMBASE (1980-current), Cochrane Library (2011:1) and MEDION were included in our search. Studies evaluating compression in the treatment of ankle sprains were included. Two authors independently reviewed potential studies according to a set eligibility criteria.

Results: Twelve studies including 1,701 patients with ankle sprains were identified (level of evidence: four grade 1b; five grade 2b; three grade 4). Intermittent pneumatic compression (IPC), elastic tubular bandage and compression bandaging were all evaluated. Five of the 12 studies reported that compression therapy improves recovery after ankle injury, of which one evaluated IPC, and the remaining four elastic bandages (Elastoplast, class II elastic stockings, wool and crepe, focal compression with air stirrup). Five studies evaluating Tubigrip in ankle sprains concluded that Tubigrip has no positive effect on functional recovery and may increase the requirement for analgesia compared with no intervention.

Conclusion: Compression may be an effective tool in the management of ankle injuries and has been shown to reduce swelling and improve quality of life in single studies. Definitive conclusions are hampered by the poor quality of evidence and the variety of treatments used. The most effective form of compression to treat ankle sprains or is yet to be determined. Adequately designed randomized control trials are clearly needed.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ankle Injuries / therapy*
  • Compression Bandages*
  • Edema / etiology
  • Humans
  • Intermittent Pneumatic Compression Devices*
  • Musculoskeletal Pain / etiology
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Soft Tissue Injuries / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult