So you’ve sprained your ankle and you’ve almost given up on your plans for the next 4-6 weeks. (Since that’s how long everyone says it take to heal a sprained ankle.)
I’ve got some good news for you.
Advancements in physical rehabilitation have reduced the time it takes to rehab an ankle from weeks to just a few days. But you’ve got to know the steps to take and which order to do them. If you don’t follow all of the steps in order, statistics show that you will experience a more serious sprain within 12 months of your initial injury. First a little background.
When you injured your ankle you damaged ligaments, tendons, strained supporting muscles, position sensors in your foot called proprioceptors and you may have fractured one of the 7 bones in the ankle joint.
As soon as you injured your ankle, your body’s response was to restrict movement of the injured area to prevent additional damage.
It does this by releasing lymph into the area which causes swelling. The swelling restricts movement of your foot and ankle. So your body is doing exactly what its supposed to.
The problem is that in order to accelerate the healing process you have to get rid of the swelling.
If you follow what 99% of all Emergency Rooms tell you, you’ll be using the R.I.C.E. protocol.
R.I.C.E. Stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.
RICE is NOT a way to heal your sprained ankle fast. It is a first aid response to a sprained ankle (or almost any injury for that matter).
So what do you do? You incorporate movement with ICE. The movement of your foot and ankle will help to “pump” the swelling out of your ankle and your foot.
Fill a 5 gallon bucket full of ice, fill it with water and then stick your foot in it until it becomes numb. It will probably hurt like crazy until it gets numb.
After about 12-15 minutes take your foot out of the ice water bath and move it around until the feeling comes back.
Repeat until the swelling goes down.
Once the swelling is gone you can start to rehab your ankle.
WARNING! If you successfully reduce or completely remove the swelling from around your ankle, you are in an extremely vulnerable situation. Your ankle is injured, it is not immobilized and has not been rehabilitated.
To prevent injury while you are healing you need artificial support such as a lace up ankle brace and athletic tape. ACE bandages are a waste of time for the type of support you need in this situation.
After you have the swelling down, then you need to start restoring range of motion, strength and flexibility.
There are several exercises that can be done, but any exercise that you do needs to be weight-bearing and strengthen your ankle in the way that you move normally during your activities.
To state it differently, any exercise that you are using to rehab a sprained ankle should mimic the movement that you would experience walking across uneven ground (your ankle moves in every different direction including up and down).
For starters you can do calf raises. They will help to strengthen your calves and stretch out your Achilles. But calf raises only address one side of the muscles, ligaments and tendons that support your ankle.
You have to address the front of your leg and both sides.
When I was in college and sprained my ankle, the physical therapist told me to put both of my feet inside the legs of a chair and then push them outward to strengthen the outside of my legs.
This felt weird and didn’t mimic how I would move on the basketball court, but I did it any way.
For the inside of my legs they told me to put my feet on the outside of the legs of a chair and push against the legs toward the inside as if I were trying to crush the chair between my legs.
Again, it felt weird, but I did it anyway.
None of the exercises the physical therapist told me to do addressed the front of my leg, my shins. So I would just stick my foot under something heavy and then try to raise my toes up.
This seemed to work pretty good.
The one thing that I realized later was that none of these exercises addressed re-calibrating the position sensors in my foot. These position sensors were damaged during the initial injury and if they weren’t re-connected with my brain, my brain would not know the exact position my foot was in and I could injure my ankle again.
Unfortunately I suffered from one ankle sprain after another because I was not re-calibrating the position sensors in my foot.
In the last year of my college basketball career I discovered an exercise that anyone can do which took the place of all of the exercises the physical therapist had given me AND it re-calibrated the position sensors in my foot.
I discovered how to heal a sprained ankle fast at the end of my career.