Caring for Ankle Sprains
Having recently suffered an inversion ankle sprain during my weekly volleyball match, I’ve decided to share some effective home care tips for dealing with ankle sprains. It is also highly recommended that all injuries be assessed by a health professional before carrying out your home remedies.
Ankle strain and sprain injuries are very common, especially in sports that require jumping, pivoting, and planting, such as volleyball, basketball, netball. We should remember that healing takes place in stages and so should your home care routine.
How do ankle sprains occur?
Ankle sprains occur from rolling your ankle inward or outward which classifies them into inversion or eversion ankle sprains. This damages ligaments and muscle tendons within the ankle. At first, you will notice a high degree of pain, moderate swelling, and difficulty with bearing weight. This is because the ligaments and tendons have been stretched past their normal range causing partial, or in worse cases, complete tears.
Swelling is a natural healing response of the body to carry high amounts of blood flow, nutrients, and oxygen to the area. Swelling is not always a bad thing, as it’s a sign your body is trying to heal on its own. However, excessive swelling can damage other tissues within the area making the problem worse. Immediately following these injuries, we need to limit the swelling to reduce any extra damaged caused by the swelling response. Once this stage is complete, swelling is no longer an enemy.
The RICE method
The most effective home therapies derive from the RICE method. The RICE method consists of Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.
1. Rest – Depending on the severity of the injury, it’s recommended to rest your injury for up to 6 weeks to ensure proper healing time. During this time you will see a reduction in swelling, improvements in pain, the return of normal mobility and range of movement. You will also have the ability to carry out other rehabilitation care to help you get back on your feet.
2. Ice – Ice is the ultimate swelling reducer. It will cool the region which slows metabolic functions and helps the body dissipate heat from all the healing activity your body is trying to carry out. An easy rule to follow with ice is to leave it on for no more than 20-30 minutes at a time, no more. You can repeat the process as much as you like as long as the skin returns to room temperature before reapplying.
Ice should be used for up to 72 hours depending on the severity of the injury, but usually, 36-48 hours is enough. Once this time frame is up post-injury, we should encourage metabolic function and healing response by using heat instead. The same rules apply with heat application.
3. Compression – Another swelling reducer, but also a support mechanism. Compression stockings, wraps and bandages are all good here. By compressing the area we limit the amount of fluid that can enter the damage site, hence limiting swelling. Wraps and bandages will also provide support to the ankle which is now in a state of instability because the torn muscles and ligaments cannot carry out normal movements.
4. Elevation – Yet another swelling reducer. This is a simple one, by holding the ankle higher than the level of the heart, our body now needs to fight against gravity to pump fluid into the area. The elevation is key for prolonged periods of rest such as overnight sleep, and those hours where you just can’t get up and carry out your everyday activities due to injury.
RICE therapy is simple and highly effective. We should use RICE therapy to help with the acute stage of care, and once we are back up and moving we then need to strengthen and stabilise the injury so we can get back to normal. For specific exercises to rehab your ankle injury, contact us at Wellspring Chiropractic.
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