It is reported that sprained ankles account for nearly half of all sports injuries. So it is no surprise that it is one of the most common injuries we see in the clinic. We often hear “I just have weak ankles”, and whilst we concede that we are born with different natural strength around our joints, we do firmly believe that most people’s ‘weak ankles’ are just former ankle sprains that have not been rehabilitated correctly.
Here are our top 5 tips to treating ankle sprains and, most importantly, making sure they don’t reoccur:
It is likely that you have come across this commonly used acronym, because it is a good one! And it is particularly appropriate in the acute phase of an ankle sprain. Often ankle sprains will inflame at an alarming rate, however inflammation is a necessary response and it is your body healing. R.I.C.E is a good treatment plan for the first three days of a sprain;
Rest – use the ankle joint as minimally as possible
Ice – apply ice for periods of ten minutes at a time and repeat multiple times a day. Ice will help with pain and control inflammation
Compress – we are not big fans of compression, however if you are required to walk, a support or appropriate taping can be beneficial. Taping should be applied by a trained professional
Elevate – put your foot up. The elevation can help the bodies naturally process of draining the inflammation
- NON-WEIGHT BEARING MOVEMENT
After the acute phase (typically 72 hours), it is helpful to start non-weight bearing movements. From a seated or lying position, start to move the foot in all directions – try writing the alphabet in mid-air using your big toe!
- CHECK YOUR BALANCE
An ankle sprain is damage to the ligaments of the ankle, which are responsible for assisting with your balance via a process called proprioception. Proprioception is reduced or non-existent following an ankle sprain. It is important to start trying to improve your balance at the first opportunity. Try cleaning your teeth standing on one foot and holding the basin, and then slowly try to remove your hand while maintaining balance.
As your ankle starts to heal you will commonly notice some muscle tightness, particularly common in the calf muscle. Your altered gait and lack of balance will lead to compensations and certain muscles working ‘over time’. Increase your stretches to reduce the compensation.
- FOLLOW A PROGRESSIVE PROGRAM
… and don’t stop! It is important to begin a progressive rehabilitation program with a trained professional as quickly as possible. And it is equally as important not to stop. It is typical for ankle pain to reduce to the point where it is perceived that the ankle is fully rehabilitated, however, the ankle is often still far weaker than the uninjured side, which often leads to ankle sprains reoccurring. Only return to exercise and sport when a professional advises you to do so!