One of the main parts of R.I.C.E. is compression. Remember, R.I.C.E. stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. So, in addition to rest, ice and elevating your ankle, it also suggests you compress your ankle and this is usually done with a wrap or brace. Although this seems like a harmless technique to help heal a sprained ankle, rehab experts now agree that this is not the best way to heal an ankle sprain. And, in fact, it can slow down the healing process and hurt your ankle recovery.
Why you should NOT Wrap or Brace a Sprained Ankle
When you wrap or brace an ankle sprain, you are doing it with one purpose in mind- to reduce swelling and restrict movement. The reason to restrict movement is so that you do not cause any further injury. That may sound like a good thing, so you do not cause further injury which may seem reasonable on the surface, but consider the following:
- A brace or wrap is not very effective at reducing swelling. There are much more effective treatments for reducing swelling. And this does not include ice. (ice is only effective at reducing swelling for 48 hours after the sprain.
- A brace or wrap will weaken the ligaments and reduce range of motion which slows down the healing process AND causes a much higher risk of future injury.
When you sprain an ankle, there is extensive damage to the ligaments in and around the ankle joint. In order to heal the injury, it is vitally important that you break up scar tissue, reduce swelling, and increase strength in the ligaments. A wrap or brace is a crutch that your ankle will rely on during the healing process. In effect, it will force the ligaments in your ankle to stay weak instead of fully recover. The wrap will not allow your ankle to move naturally as it recovers which will also inhibit a natural and healthy range of motion. In short, your ankle will heal unnaturally and badly. This will put you at an increased risk of injury in the future. And since most people continue to wear a wrap or tape up their ankles after the sprain, they continue to keep their ankles weak and inflexible. This is a recipe for disaster over time.
Instead of using a wrap or brace for a sprained ankle, rehab experts agree that you should incorporate a much more proactive rehab regimen. This does not mean going for a jog on your sprained ankle. But, it does mean, using active rehab techniques that you can do at home which will heal the injury in a natural and complete way. Instead of laying in bed, icing your ankle for weeks with a brace or wrap on it, you need to do specific exercises, stretches and other effective rehab techniques that will have far more benefit than a brace or wrap.
In effect, you will be strengthening your ankle instead of weakening it further from a brace or wrap. You will be helping the body speed up the healing process dramatically, since the ligaments will heal more naturally. Left to heal by themselves under a wrap or brace, the ligaments will heal very poorly. Rehab experts know understand that the body responds best to a more active approach. Again, it does not mean over-doing it. You want to continue to rest most of the time, but push yourself gently as you stretch and exercise the ankle.
So, what is the difference in healing time? With the typical R.I.C.E. treatment, including a wrap or brace, you can expect a recovery time of 4-8 weeks. And even once you are better, your ankle will be weak and stiff. You may feel the need to continue wearing a wrap or brace like a crutch. Of course, that will continue to keep your ankle stiff and weak and put you at a higher risk of another ankle sprain.
However, with a good active rehab program, you can expect to be walking normally and pain free in about a week. In addition, your ankle will not need the use of any kind of wrap or brace, since it will be strong and have regained its natural range of motion. Obviously, this puts you at a much lower risk of future injury and is a significantly safer and better way for you to play sports, walk run, etc.
If you are looking for an excellent at home rehab treatment for a sprained ankle, I highly recommend http://hemanklerehab.com I believe it is one of the best options out there for people of all ages, fitness levels, etc. It has been shown to be extremely effective at speeding up the healing time and reducing the risk of injury. And obviously, it does not require the use of any kind of equipment like a brace or a wrap. It is a much more natural and healthy option for healing a sprained ankle. I encourage you to learn more about it.