I think just about everyone has experienced the pain of a sprained ankle at sometime in their lives, most of us more than once. Most people that are active or athletic will experience the pain of a sprained ankle at some point. When I was a medic with a rifle company in the Army National Guard it was a common injury. When I played football or basketball or even baseball in high school I suffered a few sprain ankles also.
So what exactly is a sprained ankle? According to the Micromedex files at the hospital where I work a sprained ankle is “when the ligaments in the ankle are stretched or torn.” I had thought that torn ligaments was a separate and more severe injury than a sprain. As a medic with the Army National Guard and as a corpsman in the Navy, as well as a Personal trainer I would still feel that a torn ligament was different and more severe than a sprain. That is however what the Micromedex says.
I do agree though that the cause of the sprained ankle or torn ligaments can and often is the exact same. That is they are both usually caused when there is a sudden injury to your ankle. On the baseball diamond it could come sliding into base or having your foot “turn” as you step on base. Just walking down the street you could slip in a hole and twist the ankle. A football player could have his legs “taken out from under him” by a tackler and twist the ankle or the knee. Any type of trauma that twists or causes the ankle to bend in an unusual way can cause a sprain.
If you do have an ankle injury you may need X-Rays do make sure you do not have broken bones. If there are no broken bones the ankle should heal in about 4-6 weeks. Depending on the severity of the sprain you may have weakness for 6 to 18 months, though I have had sprains many times and with proper treatment and therapy even 6 months sounds like a long period unless the ligaments are indeed torn.
You will likely experience considerable pain with an ankle sprain, but most caregivers will suggest using Tylenol or another NSAID to relieve the pain. The Acronym RICE is usually how a sprain is treated.
Rice stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.
Rest the affected ankle for at least 24 hours if possible
Ice down the area to help reduce Swelling it is common practice to ice down the area for 15 to 20 minutes each hour for the first 48 hours. Use a bag of ice and place a towel between the ice and the skin.
After 48 hours you may want to use heat such as warm wet towels in place of the ice.
Depending on the severity of the sprain the caregiver may give you an elastic bandage or a splint or both to place on the ankle. Follow the direction given as this may aid in a quicker recovery.
You should also elevate the affected ankle above your heart whenever possible. This will help reduce the swelling
By doing these things and following the RICE protocol you will aid in the healing of your sprain and therefore heal more quickly.
Some people believe strongly in the use of supplements and herbs so below is a short list of a few supplements that have been used in the treatment of ankle sprains.
Herbs such as Boswellia (Boswellia serrata) have been used for many years, but it has not had any double blind studies done on it for effectiveness in ankle sprains.
Capsaicin Cream (Capsicum frutescens) can be applied to the ankle injury to help deaden the pain. This is actually made from Cayenne Pepper and is said to be irritating for the first few applications then the irritation stops. If you use this be sure to wash your hands thoroughly to keep any of the substance out of your eyes.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is another herb that has been used for many years but has never had any scientific studies done for effectiveness.
Willow (Salix alba) an herb that has been used for many years for ankle sprains but has not been studied in a controlled environment for effectiveness.
Supplements such as DMSO, D-Phenylalanine, Glucosamine sulfate, Niacinamide, Vitamin A and Vitamin C have also been used in the treatment of ankle sprains.
Acupuncture and acupressure as well as massage and physical therapy have all been used in the treatment of ankle sprains.
Disclaimer: Nothing in this article should be construed in any way as medical advice. If you have an injury or illness you should see a healthcare provider.