Looking after an ankle sprain
A brief guide to looking after minor ankle sprains.
(spoiler alert – don’t just wait for it to get better)
With the arrival of summer sports comes the inevitable influx of ankle sprains. I’ve been surprised how frequently people will present to their GP (and sometimes other therapists) for advice on this only to be told, you just need to rest it.
Please, don’t “just rest it”.
The biggest predictor for someone getting an ankle sprain is a previous ankle sprain, because people aren’t getting good advice on how to effectively care for this injury. Damage to ligaments and changes in sensory perception in the area mean that the ankle needs to be retrained in order to regain good balance and function.
So, what do we do?
First thing to do is to REST. Get your weight off the ankle and if need be, get it assessed by a professional.
If the sprain is not too severe, COMPRESS the ankle with a compression bandage and keep the ankle ELEVATED.
Compressing and elevating the ankle will help the swelling move away from the ankle. These days, ice is not as popular as it has been in the past. It is an effective analgesic, but otherwise is considered to slow down the healing process and lead to poorer outcomes overall.
This is one of the best drills you can do for your ankle following a sprain. The movement will help shift the swelling while retraining muscles involved in dynamic stabilization of the foot and ankle.
How to do it…
Slowly trace out the letters of the alphabet in the air with your big toe by moving the ankle joint.
INCI-DENTAL BALANCE WORK
A bit of a play on words, but the simple act of dental hygiene – brushing your teeth – creates a great perturbation to your balance. Try balancing on one leg while you brush your teeth in the morning.
Get those booties off and let your feet feel the ground. Going bare foot increases the amount of sensory feedback that the feet provide.
One of the best activities to help restore good function and balance to an ankle is to go rock hopping. Head down to your local beach and check out the rock platforms at either end. Scampering over rocks will tilt the ankle every which way and help build good control and balance.
In the later stages of healing, look to engage in more dynamic exercises that match your sport. Whatever you do, don’t just wait for it to get better.
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