Tips for faster recovery from sprained ankle
Picture this: Your school football team has made it to the finales. You have to play in the big game tomorrow but you accidentally fall and sprain your ankle. Now before you stress out in such a situation, let us tell you some expert-approved ways on how to heal a sprained ankle as soon as possible.
A sprained ankle is a common occurrence among athletes and people who routinely exercise. It is also considerably easy to prevent common foot and ankle injuries.
In this article, Dr Anuj Chawla, best foot and ankle specialist in Gurgaon discusses some top tips for the prevention of ankle injuries and how to manage them.
What is a sprained ankle?
A sprained ankle happens when you hurt the ligaments in your ankles. Ligaments are flexible tissues that hold two adjacent bones together. You can sprain your ankle when you are rolling or twist it by mistake.
Common symptoms of a sprained ankle include:
- Swelling and bruising of the ankle
- Limited range of motion
- Pain and Instability
- Tender ankle
- Popping sound at the time of injury
How to heal a sprained ankle?
Athletes would understand how recurring sprained ankles are. However, this injury can also be healed comfortably. The following remedies can be applied at home if a person suffers from an ankle sprain.
Tips on how to heal a sprained ankle-
The R.I.C.E approach is very popular and beneficial for a swift recovery. It is a traditional tried and tested healing method. The acronym R.I.C.E. stands for – Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation, respectively.
Rest: If you suffer from any injury at any body part, the primary step is to give proper rest to the affected area. You should not engage in any activity that could worsen the swelling or pain.
Ice: Applying ice to the sprain has also been proved favourable in most cases. You should place an ice pack to the ankle to reduce swelling and pain. If an ice pack is not available, you can simply wrap some ice cubes around in a towel and use it.
Compression: Doctors recommend compressing the sprained ankle by using an elastic or crepe bandage. This helps in reducing the swelling and alleviates pain. It is also helpful in maintaining joint stability. While the bandage should be wrapped around firmly, you should not bind it too tight. If the bandage is excessively tight, it can obstruct blood circulation and cause numbness.
Elevation: The last step of the R.I.C.E. is to elevate the sprained ankle. Elevating the ankle helps to avoid the buildup of fluid in the joints. It is suggested that you should support the ankle by placing a pillow under it while sleeping. You should keep the ankle at an elevated level from the heart to help reduce swelling.
In severe ankle sprains which limit the ability of the person to walk, some form of protection is helpful to prevent worsening of the injury. Protection and immobilization can be in the form of a cast, pneumatic walker boots or ankle brace. In fact, the acronym for healing acute ankle sprain has been changed by many from RICE to PRICE so as to include protection.
Non Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS) like ibuprofen and Voveran (diclofenac) have been proven to be of significant benefit in early healing These medicines work by reducing the pain and swelling and hence hastening the recovery.
4. Physical therapy
Exercises and rehabilitation play a paramount role in preventing stiffness, early recovery and prevention of recurrence in future. Physical therapy after an ankle sprain should be started after a brief period of rest of 5-7 days or after the plaster is removed. The rehabilitation for acute ankle sprain can be divided into 3 phases:
- Stretching and mobilization- Gentle mobilisation of the ankle and stretching of calf muscles is started first to combat the stiffness, promote blood circulation, reduce the swelling and hence boost the process of healing.
- Strengthening– Once the movement of the ankle is restored close to normal, strengthening of the muscles around the ankle needs to be initiated. Strengthening primarily focuses on muscles on the outer side and the front of the ankle, namely evertors and dorsiflexors respectively but it has to be done all around the ankle
- Proprioception training- The most neglected yet the most important part of rehabilitation after an ankle sprain is prevention of recurrence. Proprioception or balance training plays an important role in this. It helps in improving the coordination between the brain and ankle without involving the eyes. Simple exercises like single leg stance with eyes open and closed can be started to improve balance training as soon as one recovers from ankle sprain.
You can also go to a verified healthcare provider and choose for lightweight massage. You may also do a gentle massage at home yourself.
Sprained ankle prevention tips
Besides effective management, ankle sprains can also be prevented. Since such injuries are frequent events in sports. Athletes need to learn about the prevention of ankle injuries.
Here are some useful tips to prevent foot and ankle injuries:
- Warm-up before any sports activity – Whether you are about to participate in a marathon or hit the gym, you should always do warm up in advance. Light stretching, jogging and more are considered good warm-ups to prepare the body for a workout.
- Wear proper footwear – The idea of playing football in heels is most bizarre. There is a variety of footwear made for their specific purposes. While playing a sport, you should wear shoes specifically designed for sports. These shoes have the right arch support that helps to prevent foot and ankle injury.
- Replace old shoes – Even if you have the right footwear, it is important to ensure that they constantly offer the right arch support. If your sports shoes have worn out, you should replace them for the prevention of ankle injuries.
- Avoid uneven surfaces – Everyone likes an adventure but none likes a sprained ankle. If your physical activity involves running, jumping or walking, you should avoid going to uneven surfaces. Flat surfaces help you play better and avoid injuries. Even in outdoor sports such as hiking, while you cannot completely avoid rocks and steps, you should watch out for the ones that may pose danger.
- Do ankle exercises – Particular exercises can help to prevent foot and ankle injuries. You should include these exercises in your regular workout schedule. Some of the common exercises for ankle include:
- Ankle circle: You simply have to sit on a flat surface with your legs outstretched and move your ankles in a circular motion.
- Heel raises: This exercise requires you to stand against a wall or another support. You are required to keep your legs a few inches apart. Slowly lift your heels and stand on your toes. Hold that position for a few seconds and repeat.
- Prevent recurrent injuries – If you have suffered from a sprained ankle earlier, your chances of hurting your ankle, again, increases. To avoid ankle sprains, you can use a tape at the sight of the previous injury or wear an ankle brace during the sporting event.
- Choose physical therapy – A certified physical therapist would be able to help with your ankle sprain and recovery. You can choose to go for physical therapy if you have suffered from a seriously sprained ankle that may affect your physical ability or strength.
When to consult a doctor in case of a sprained ankle?
If your pain does not alleviate after implementing these tips, you should instantly seek medical support. You should consult your healthcare provider if:
- Your pain is worsening
- You are unable to walk at all
- Your swelling does not reduce
The concluding note
A sprained ankle usually heals on its own without clinical intervention. The above-given tips can help you to encourage the healing process for a quicker recovery.
To learn more about muscle and joint injuries, consult Dr Anuj Chawla, best foot and ankle specialist at the CK Birla Hospital.
Also, read: 4 Types of foot pain one should not ignore