As a physical therapist, I see a lot of patients with sprained ankles. I usually measure around the ankle in a figure eight to check for swelling. Is this a good measure of treatment results over time?

A recent study suggests that, while the figure-of-eight is a good measure of swelling, it may not show how patients are actually doing.

Twenty-nine patients were seen within a few days of spraining their ankles. Swelling was measured with the figure-of-eight. Patients also filled out questionnaires about their pain and ability to do activities.

Figure-of-eight measurements were not related to patients' pain and function, nor did the measurements relate to whether patients could put weight onto the hurt foot.

The authors think that patients' own reports may be a better way to gauge treatment results. Of course, there are questionnaires you can use to get this information. Getting feedback from patients will usually give a better sense of how they're doing from day to day.