The chances are that, at some point in your life, you have experienced an ankle sprain. The injury is a very common one to pick up, and the stats alone can tell you how widespread this injury is; as many as 25,000 people sprain their ankles every day!
Before we dive into how to recover from a twisted ankle, let’s look at some other areas that surround the injury:
What is a sprained/twisted ankle?
A sprained ankle, also known as a twisted ankle refers to one or more ligaments that are on the outer side of the ankle becoming stretched, or in more extreme circumstances, torn.
What happens if the injury isn’t tended to?
If a sprain receives the wrong type of treatment or is left untended, it can lead to long-term issues in the future. Usually, when the ankle is rolled, it rolls outward, causing an eversion sprain, or inward, to cause an inversion sprain. The latter causes pain along the outer side of the ankle; this injury is the most common of all. If during sport, or day-to-day use, someone picks up an eversion form of the injury, it can represent the more serious injury to the tendons or to the ligaments out of the two. The reason for this is that the outer ligaments and tendons are there to support the arch.
When are you most likely to twist your ankle?
The most common time to sprain the ankle is when the toe is on the ground and the heel is up. In medical terms, this is referred to as plantar flexion. The ankle’s ligaments are under tension when they are in this position, which means they are vulnerable, so if a sudden force, like landing on a surface that is uneven occurs, it usually turns the ankle inward, which can mean hurting anything up to three ligaments at one time.
Knowing if it is a break or a sprain
This is a tricky area, and as such, will often need an x-ray to confirm whether it is a sprain or a fracture. The main concerns would be if the injury causes the person to be unable to bear weight following the injury, or if substantial swelling or deformity appears. At this point, medical treatment from a doctor should be sought after.
It’s important to explain to the doctor the exact events of what brought about the sprained ankle as this will give them the best chance of assessing and treating the injury. They will examine it and possibly also want an x-ray to clarify if any bones are broken or not.
Knowing sprain severity
While the majority of ankle sprains do not need surgery, a sprain can be a painful and inconvenient injury. The injury is always classified as Grade I, II or III, depending on how many ligaments are injured and are based on each individual case.
How to treat your sprained ankle
When it comes to the treatment of a sprained ankle, it is essential that it is carried out properly as this can prevent chronic pain and instability in both the long-term and the short-term.
Here’s a breakdown of guidelines depending on the grade of the injury:
For a Grade I sprain, injured parties should adhere to the R.I.C.E. guidelines:
Rest the affected ankle by fully limiting any weight bearing, which includes not walking on it. If there is the need to use crutches until the results of an x-ray comes back, then do so. Once there is confirmation of no fracture then it is safe to apply some light weight on the leg. It is common to wear an ankle brace to assist in controlling swelling, while also adding stability to the ligaments during the healing period.
Ice the ankle to keep swelling under control. Remember not to apply ice directly on the skin and refrain from icing the affected area for any more than 20 minutes at a time, as this prevents the onset of frostbite. Our Physicool bandages are a great alternative to ice, as there are no risks of frostbite, and they can cool the injury for up to two hours!
Compression is another element that helps to control swelling as well as immobilization and supporting the injury.
Elevate the foot. This is achieved by reclining and propping it up above the waist, usually. Elevating up to heart level can also be done, depending on the needs of the injured party.
The Grade II sprain should also follow the R.I.C.E. guidelines, but should also be given additional time to heal due to the heightened severity of the injury. There’s a chance that a doctor may immobilize or splint the affected area.
The Grade III sprain, the most severe of grades on the ankle puts the risk of permanent ankle instability in the picture. On occasions, surgery may be needed in order to repair the damage. This is more common for competitive sportsmen and women, although is generally a rare necessity. Although the ankle may not be fractured, often as is the case with severe ankle sprains, doctors might well advise treating the patient with a short leg cast. This is typically left on for two to three weeks. A walking boot is also another option that can be used. If someone is susceptible to spraining their ankle repeatedly this may need surgery as a means to repair and tighten the ligaments.
Rehabilitating your Sprained Ankle
Not matter the severity of damage, every ligament injury necessities rehabilitation. If left without rehab, the sprained ankle might not heal fully, leaving the door open to re-injury.
There are three stages to ankle sprains recovery, which are as follows:
This includes resting, protecting and reducing swelling of the injured ankle.
This comprises of restoring the ankle’s flexibility, range of motion and strength.
Phase III incorporates gradually returning to straight-ahead activity and executing maintenance exercises, which is then followed later by more cutting sports such as tennis.
Once the ankle can be stood on again, a physician will prescribe exercise routines that will allow the affected area to be strengthened in terms of building muscles and ligaments strength, as well as helping to increase balance, flexibility, and coordination. Once this stage of rehab has been completed and has the positive effects, walking, jogging and running in figure eights with your ankle taped or in a supportive ankle brace can take place.
The importance of rehabilitation
Many people will attempt to skip the rehab process, but this is crucial to complete the programme provided as this will enable the affected area to get back to its original state, or as close to it as possible. It will also help in the prevention of a reoccurrence of the injury. Bypassing or half-hearted rehabilitation can result in chronic pain, instability and arthritis at a later stage. If the ankle is still painful, this may mean the ligament hasn’t healed correctly, or, in some cases, there’s another injury in the same area.
Sprain pain relief can also be found through Physicool’s reusable cooling and compression bandages that are on hand to helping the recovery and rehabilitation process. They assist in alleviating pains, as well as aiding the reduction of swelling, allowing the muscles and tendons to heal. Find out more by following the link above.