An ankle sprain usually comes as a result of landing on the ankle improperly during sports or other daily activities. It is important that the injury is treated promptly in order to ensure proper healing. Certain protocols are used to reduce the swelling, decrease the pain, and reduce the amount of pressure that is put on the ankle. Medical professionals teach their patients to use the RICE technique for healing an ankle sprain. This is an acronym for rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
Rest: You should stay off of your feet as much as possible. Using crutches for any necessary walking will reduce the pressure on the injured ankle.
Ice: You should ice the ankle immediately and as often as possible. This will help to decrease swelling and minimize the pain.
Compression: This helps push swelling away from the ankle. An elastic support or ankle brace is ideal for this.
Elevation: Supporting Keeping the ankle above the heart will help reduce swelling and lessen the pain of the sprained ankle.
Pain relievers and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be very helpful. Less pain means getting back to regular activities more quickly as well as being more comfortable during the healing process.
It is important to keep some motion in the ankle during the healing process. Years ago the most common treatment was to put the ankle in a plaster cast, but this causes muscle degeneration which makes the ankle weaker and more prone to re-injury even after the sprain has healed. Using ankle braces is much more effective as it allows just enough movement and pressure to be placed on the ankle to keep it strong, but not enough to cause more damage. Another great advantage is the ability to remove the ankle braces in order to bathe.
It generally takes about six weeks for the ligaments to fully heal and the swelling and tenderness can often last for a couple of months. You may even need some physical therapy in order to fully regain proper use of the ankle after a serious sprain. Using mild ankle braces for physical activity is probably an excellent recommendation and this should be done for an extended period of time (a year or longer, sometimes indefinitely).
It is important to follow your doctor’s advice and wear your ankle braces as long as directed in order to avoid ankle instability. This condition will keep you feeling as though the sprain is ready to return and make future sprains much more likely.
If ankle instability does occur, your doctor will likely recommend physical therapy to strengthen the ankle and surrounding muscles as well as supportive ankle braces to help distribute weight bearing on the ankle.
Ankle braces are definitely a better choice than casting for ankle sprains. Most people heal much more quickly and experience a decreased risk of ankle instability by using ankle braces. There are several styles to choose from and they are adjustable to ensure a perfect fit.