Knowing four steps for ankle sprain recovery can come in handy. Many people will sprain or tear the ligament of their ankles at some point in their lives. While ankle sprains are most common as sports injuries among athletes, ankle sprains can happen to anyone and can occur simply from rolling the foot inward. If you have sprained your ankle, you’re likely dealing with a lot of pain and other unpleasant symptoms. You will have to be patient and wait for your ankle to heal by itself. Luckily, there are things you can do to speed up your ankle sprain recovery. In addition, not only can the right post-injury treatment help your ankle heal much faster, but it can also help prevent future ankle problems, complications and even injuries. The most important thing you can do for quick and complete ankle sprain recovery is to act as quickly as you can and follow these four steps: Use the P.R.I.C.E. method explained below, see a doctor, take any prescribed medication, and exercise. P.R.I.C.E.
Immediately after the ankle sprain occurs, start using the acronym known in the ankle sprain recovery world as “P.R.I.C.E.” According to Susan M. Brooker from Columbus Road Runners, P.R.I.C.E. stands for Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. The following steps and tips below should help encourage ankle sprain recovery for you or for someone you know who has just sprained his or her ankle.
Starting with the “protection” part of the P.R.I.C.E. treatment, sit or lie down, taking the pressure off your ankle. Don't do anything that could aggravate your injury or cause you further harm. In such a time, your first instinct should be to protect the injured area.
Second, “rest” suggests that you limit your walking and moving around. If you can't avoid walking, try to use crutches or a cane. Stay off the injured area as much as possible and allow your body's natural healing elements to come into play.
Third, “ice” is the next course of action of the P.R.I.C.E. treatment. The best way to apply ice to your tender ankle is to use a bag of frozen peas or corn, as the bag will wrap around your leg easily. Apply ice for no more than 20 minutes at a time (otherwise you could end up with freezer burn and tissue damage) about three to five times a day for the first two to three days after the injury. Space your ice applications evenly throughout the day.
The fourth part of the P.R.I.C.E. ankle sprain recovery process is “compression,” which involves applying pressure to the sprained ankle and its surrounding areas. Try wrapping an elastic bandage or tensor from your toes all the way up to about your mid-calf, wrapping it around your foot and leg as you go. Make sure you apply enough pressure to provide compression, but not too much pressure. If your wrapping feels uncomfortably tight or you are losing circulation, then loosen the bandage slightly. Using compression will help to reduce the swelling.
The fifth and final step of the P.R.I.C.E. recovery process is to “elevate.” Elevate your ankle or leg as much as you can during your recovery period. This will help improve circulation and make sure that the blood gets to all of the right areas for complete healing. Use pillows or other items for elevation and comfort as necessary.
Besides using P.R.I.C.E., there are other ways you can help speed up ankle sprain recovery. While you can certainly take over-the-counter medication for pain, this won’t do anything to help you heal faster. What will work better are anti-inflammatory drugs. Choose the non-steroidal type (NSAID). You can find a few different brands available over the counter, but you may need to ask your doctor for prescription NSAID medicine to help ease the swelling and inflammation in your ankle and the surrounding area. While some ankle sprain patients are averse to taking drugs, you will likely notice a big decrease in the amount the swelling around your ankle if you take doctor-approved NSAID in conjunction with using the P.R.I.C.E. method of treatment.
A sprained ankle does not necessarily warrant a trip to the doctor unless the pain is quite severe or if you find that you can’t put any weight whatsoever on the affected ankle. If this is the case, see a doctor as soon as possible to make sure that your ankle sprain is in fact an ankle sprain and not something else more serious. If there is something more serious going on with your ankle, such as a break or a torn ligament, a doctor will be able to recognize and diagnose it, as well as advise and treat the injury accordingly.
After you have effectively and safely dealt with the problem of pain of your ankle sprain, you'll need to begin to start moving around normally again and conditioning your ankle to properly handle your weight and the conditions on which it will operate.
After an injury and a recovery period, there is an adjustment period to get back to your normal pace of moving. Never push your body.
You’ll need to begin an exercise regimen of walking, gentle stretching and strengthening exercises. Walking will help your ankle to start bearing weight again. Gentle, slow stretching will help your ankle to warm up and get the surrounding muscles and ligaments flexible again, as they will have lost some suppleness during the rest and recovery period. Strengthening exercises will help to make your ankle strong again.
The most important exercises to speed up the healing and prevent further injury is balance exercises, also known as “proprioception exercises.” Even a simple exercise like balancing on one leg will do wonders for improving your overall balance and will significantly strengthen the ankle. You can, for example, try balancing on the leg with the sprained ankle (hold your other leg up) for about 10 seconds in the beginning, and work your way up to longer periods from there.
Don't Wait to Begin Recovery
The biggest thing to keep in mind for ankle sprain recovery is to react as soon as possible, and to treat your injury properly. Don’t do what many athletes do when they sprain their ankles while playing sports, which is to ignore the pain until the game or event is over, and then treat the injury afterwards.
Waiting on treatment of your ankle injury will not only increase the swelling, but will also put you at greater risk for injury, slow down your complete recovery from the sprain, and put you at risk for future ankle sprains and other related injuries.
Instead, stop what you are doing immediately after you notice the pain in your ankle and take immediate action.
Prevention is Key
Prevention is also an important dimension of ankle care. Whether you are an athlete or not, using the correct shoes, protective gear and any other necessary equipment for the activity in question is important for reducing your risk of any type of injury. Make sure that you are wearing shoes that fit properly and that you can walk, run or jog easily. You shouldn't notice that you are even wearing shoes.
Another way you can prevent ankle sprains in the future is to strengthen both of your ankle joints through strengthening and balancing exercises.
Keep first aid kits containing supplies such as bandages, tensors, ice, ice packs, splints, and medication handy at all times. Armed with preventative measures, your first aid kit, and the four steps for ankle sprain recovery (P.R.I.C.E.), you’re well on your way to stronger ankles and faster healing.
Always Consult Your Physician First
Although it is helpful to get health information by reading and talking with friends, make sure you consult your doctor first before trying any new treatment or changing your diet. Remember that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate the strength, purity or safety of herbs and supplements. Be sure to always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, speak with your doctor before taking medical action or changing your health routine. This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. LifeScript disclaims any liability for the decisions made by its readers based on the information provided.