Although a sprained ankle may not be a major injury, it could be quite a hindrance to daily activities and of course, sports would not be possible without further injuring the ankle. Depending on the severity of the sprain, recovery could take from 6 weeks to up to 4 months. However, with adequate rest, proper treatment and rehabilitation, the healing process could be sped up significantly.
Typically, an ankle sprain can be identified by the pain, swelling, stiffness and instability. A minor sprain involves a stretched ligament with slight tearing. The pain would not be too intense and it would still be possible to walk with a limp. If the ligament is completely torn, the ankle joint would lose its function and stability. Intense pain would be felt initially but it would wear off after a while till no pain is felt. Swelling would be extensive.
As with many other kinds of leg and joint injuries, the R.I.C.E (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) method is the first form of treatment to contain the injury and reduce pain and swelling.
- Rest: Avoid weight bearing as much as possible to allow the ankle to heal and prevent further aggravation of the injury.
- Ice: Using an ice pack or ice wrap, apply it on the injured area for 10-15 minutes several times a day. This would reduce the pain and swelling.
- Compression: After icing, use bandage to wrap around the injured area snugly. Make sure that it is not too tight that it cuts off blood circulation.
- Elevation: Raise your leg above the heart level to further reduce the swelling.
These four steps should be repeated at least three times a day or until the pain and swelling subside.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) can help to reduce the inflammation and reduce pain and swelling.
Keeping your ankle immobilized for too long can result in stiffness. Always wriggle your toes or move your ankle lightly whenever possible to keep it flexible. Once the injury has stabilized and is recovering, you can start rehabilitation exercises to restore its motion, strength and balance.
You can start off with sitting on a chair and moving your ankle up and down, followed by rolling your foot inward and outward. If these movements are bearable, proceed to stand with legs at hip width apart and lift up one foot at ankle level. Change to the other foot and repeat the reps.
Slowly lift your feet off the ground on a tiptoe and hold the position before lowering it back down. Use a support if necessary.
With a wall for support, lean forward with one leg bent and reach out for the wall with both hands at head level. The other leg should be kept straight and feeling the stretch along the calf. Do the same with the other leg.