Injuries are a part of playing any sport, and the more you know about what to do when you get injured, the better off you will be. One of the most common injuries is a sprained ankle. A sprained ankle is possible to treat on your own, but it’s important to know some of the basics first. As a side note, if you think your ankle may be broken, please have it looked at to make sure it isn’t broken before treating it yourself. For a sprain, there are several steps you can take to begin the healing process immediately.
Start by resting as much as possible, especially for the first couple days after an ankle sprain. If at all possible, stay completely off of your feet for a few days, maybe even a week. This does not necessarily mean that you need to be completely inactive as long as you are able to rest your ankle. While resting, remember to elevate your injured ankle by placing some pillows or whatever else is available under your ankle. The several times I sprained my ankle i even elevated the end of my bed, so that when I slept my ankle still remained elevated. This is one of a few ways to minimize the swelling that happens with this type of injury.
A major part of treating your sprained ankle is the use of ice and it is vital to make sure you start as soon as possible after the injury occurs. Icing your ankle consistently, particularly for the first 48 hours, will keep the swelling down and can reduce the pain significantly. When icing your ankle, it is important to remember a few basics to gain the maximum amount of benefit in a minimum amount of time. Ice the injured ankle constantly for 15 minutes at a time with 20 minutes off in between sessions. Any more than 15 to 20 minutes at a time will do more harm than good, so sticking to these times as closely as possible is paramount. If possible, ice your ankle throughout the night.
Maybe the most basic step to treating a sprained ankle is protecting it. As obvious as that may seem, it is an often forgotten aspect of taking care of an ankle injury. Avoid walking on the sprained ankle, and make sure to prevent any further contact, using a splint or some type of brace to immobilize it. Sometimes wearing a splint or brace can help simply by serving as a reminder to stay off of our feet.
Keeping pressure on your ankle is yet another way to reduce pain and swelling, while further protecting your injured limb. Using a simple ace bandage is generally more than adequate for providing the compression necessary to help treat your injury. It is important to note that, when applying the bandage, make it snug, but not tight. Making it too tight will adversely affect your circulation, which will slow down the healing process. Also, make it more snug towards your toes and less snug as you move further up the leg to allow and swelling to be pushed out of your foot and back towards the heart.
Using balance training to retrain the proprioceptors in your ankle can be done when the swelling begins to subside, and is specifically geared toward testing out, strengthening, and regaining balance in your ankle. First, start with some basic static balance exercises to improve your stability. For example, perform a balance exercise while standing on a stable surface, alternately shifting your bodyweight forward and backward before progressing to shifting your bodyweight side to side. In the initial rehabilitation sessions, these exercises should be performed while wearing a brace or some type of support to prevent further injury.
Ankle sprains generally heal on their own when given proper treatment and rehabilitation exercises. If injured, starting treatment as soon as possible greatly enhances the effectiveness of treatment and speeds up the recovery process. To recap, treatments for a sprained ankle include rest, ice/immobilization, compression, and elevation (also known as the acronym R.I.C.E.). After using these treatments, you will be able to begin the rehabilitation process. The quicker your ankle heals, the sooner you can get back to training, and that is the goal of any athlete dealing with any injury.