If you just had an ankle sprain, what should you do first?
First and foremost, depending on the severity of the sprain, you should consider getting x-rays to make sure that nothing is broken. If there is something broken, obviously, you need more serious medical attention and you should not follow the advice below until you are well on the road to recovery.
How long does it take to heal a sprained ankle?
It depends on how different your sprain is and what system you use to rehabilitate your ankle. It can take anywhere from 1 week all the way up to many months. It depends on how severe you ankle injury is and how you choose to heal it. There are two main treatment options covered in this article. They are 2 very different, but popular ways to heal a sprained ankle. Depending on what you choose to do, your healing time will vary greatly.
How long should you rest and ice your ankle?
Recent research on this subject really surprised me. Originally, I used to tell people to ice their ankle for the first 36-48 hours, because the conventional wisdom was that ice helped reduce swelling in that time period. Of course, most people just keep icing their ankle until the swing is gone (for weeks or months) and that is a waste of time.
But, I have now come to believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that icing at ANY point is a very bad idea. As a result, I tell people to avoid icing their ankles completely. Ice is actually very harmful to the healing process of a sprained ankle or any other injury for that matter. The reasons for this are actually a little bit complex, so let's just keep it simple. The main reason ice became a common treatment is because it helps numb the pain. And it definitely does do that, but at a significant cost.
So, what's wrong with icing an injury? Well, the body's first response after an injury is called the inflammatory response. It signals the immune system to send in an army of powerful immune cells called Macrophages (Greek for Big Eaters) to get into the affected area and literally gobble up all the harmful waste caused by the injury.
Then, after 48 hours, there is a second wave of Macrophages sent into the injured area. Their purpose is actually to repair and regenerate muscle tissue. This is absolutely essential for proper healing. Now, obviously, you want as many of these little guys in the injured area as possible in phases one and two. They are your main immune system clean up and repair guys.
The problem with ice is that it actually STOPS the flow of Macrophages. Yes, that's a fact. Research has shown quite convincingly that ice significantly decrees the ability of Macrophages to get into the injured area and do their job. So, I do not see how a little pain management from ice is worth that kind of cost.
Secondly, you want the lymphatic system to start draining the fluid out of the ankle joint, so the swelling starts to go down after a few days. But, research has also shown that ice actually REVERSES the flow of waste back into the injured area! And that is literal the exact opposite of what you want. So these days, I tell everyone to avoid ice at all costs when it comes to a sprained ankle. It does NOT help you reduce swelling and it dramatically slows down the healing process.
It is also important to note something else about the lymphatic system. Lymphatic drainage REQUIRES muscle activation. That means that if you just lay there in bed and never move your ankle, the injury can not drain the swelling. So, you have to start doing some form of ankle rehab as soon as possible to help the body drain the waste. And when I say ankle rehab, I mean very gentle stretches and exercises in the beginning that do NOT cause pain.
The main point I am trying to make is that you have to understand how the body responds to an injury. Then, make sure you follow treatments that help the body along and actually speed up the healing process instead of sabotaging it. That's what a good ankle rehab program is all about.
What is ankle rehab?
Rehab is the process of fully healing a sprained ankle. Assuming you do not have a break or fracture in your ankle, you need to begin doing active rehab immediately. Active rehab will increase strength in your ankle and quickly reduce swelling, bruising and stiffness. It addresses all the different kinds of damage from the injury and goes about healing it in a natural, safe and effective way.
You will find a wide variety of active stretches, exercises and other specific rehab techniques that have been proven to speed up the healing process dramatically as well as reduce your risk of future injury. Active rehab for a sprained ankle is by far the best way to ensure you heal properly and safely. Typically, people who follow a good ankle rehab treatment are walking pain in about a week. Compared to rest and ice alone, that is a very dramatic improvement.
Not only that, experts now believe that not only do people who follow a good active rehab program more much faster, they also heal much better. By correcting a range of motion and muscle imbalances in the ankle joint, you will get two more significant benefits:
- You will be at much lower risk for future ankle injury- When people sprain an ankle, the joint naturally has decreased flexibility and strength. This means that after the injury, when you return to your normal activities, you are at greater risk of re-injuring it. If you rehab your ankle properly, it will actually be stronger and more flexible than before you injured it, significantly reducing your risk of future injury.
- Improves speed, agility and lateral quickness – Weak ankles can not move very well. Added to that, people put on tape and braces to further inhibit their ability to move laterally or with speed. A good rehab treatment like HEM changes all that. It unshackles your ankles and gets you back to your true potential. By improving strength and range of motion in the ankles, you will be able to move with significantly more power and speed.
Which ankle rehab treatment do you recommend?
We recommend HEM as our # 1 sprained ankle rehab treatment, because it is very simple to do, but also very powerful. HEM works by healing all the damage from a sprained ankle (ligament weakness, scar tissue, neuromuscular damage, diminished range of motion, etc).
One of the things we like most about HEM is that it requires no equipment, takes a few minutes a day, and is extremely simple to understand and follow for anyone at any age or level of fitness. People tend to start feeling the healing benefits of HEM almost immediately, because it addresses the main issues from the injury and the body responses very quickly.