Health – Treating sprained ankles

If you have ever properly ‘sprained’ your ankle then you will know that it can be incredibly painful and the term ‘sprain’ sounds rather lame (excuse the pun). The pain is severe and the injury can take a long time to fully recover.

So what is a sprained ankle?An ankle sprain is when your ankle joint is moved excessively past it’s normal amount of movement (usually during a fall or slip). This results in tearing of the ligaments around the joint, causing swelling, bruising and pain around the joint.

Like all injuries there are different amounts of damage done and this is typically how we grade the severity. Simple sprains will recover within a week or so, as the ligament damage is very minimal. Moderate sprains take up to 6 weeks and severe sprains can take even longer. In some severe cases the ligaments are torn right through (ruptured) leaving the joint with excessive movement. While this is less common, it can be permanent.

The treatment is the same for all acute injuries. PRICE, which stands for:
• Protection – meaning, get into a safe place so that you don’t injure it (or anything else) any further.
• Rest – Don’t use it unless essential. That means only walking for absolutely essential reasons.
• Ice – Apply ice for 10 minutes every hour.
• Compression – keep the area under moderate compression (without cutting off circulation/nerve supplies)
• Elevation – lifting your ankle above the level of your heart (hard to do unless in a recliner or lying down – both with pillows under your injured ankle).

This formula is essential for the fastest and best recovery, especially in the acute stage. For a severe sprain this can be up to a week!

A good guideline is how painful it is to put weight on your foot. When it gets easier to do this you are often ready to move on to the next stage of treatment.

This is where you will be working on regaining the movement back to normal and will take anywhere from one day to six weeks. It is the time to work on walking correctly and without a limp.

The last phase of rehab involves regaining strength and balance.

This is the most critical stage for your long-term success and is often the difference between an injury free future or repeated injuries. Ironically it is often when people lose interest and stop treatment because it ‘feels’ better.

While a lot of the care and treatment can be performed at home, it always pays to see a qualified treatment provider. These injuries seldom need a lot of treatment but doing the right things at the right time can save a lot of time with recovery and future problems.

Sometimes  x-ray/ultrasound/MRI is needed to investigate further damage that may need surgery or other treatments.