What to Do If You Sprain Your Ankle

If you’ve ever sprained your ankle, you know that it can be extremely painful. The length of time it takes for healing as well as the treatment methods depend on the severity of the injury.

A sprain is damage to the ligaments that provide stability to joints. There are three levels of damage, grades one through three, with grade one being the least. In grade one, the ligament is overstretched and there may be microscopic damage. Grade two indicates significant damage, possibly including a tear, though not all the way through. Grade three is the worst, the joint becomes unstable and may have the ligament torn completely through.

How a sprain is treated depends on the severity above. The first step is to have a doctor diagnose it and assess how much damage has been done. Grade three could require surgery before home remedies can be applied. Once back from the doctor, the following tips could come in handy.

1) RICE: Rest, ice, compression and elevation are the terms meant in this acronym. Until it’s healed, avoid using it. If you continue to do so, you stand a good chance of making the problem worse, up to and including a need for surgery. Don’t walk on it, run, play sports or do anything that will injure it again.

Ice will help reduce swelling. After the initial stages of the injury, you may be told to do ice and heat alternately to speed healing. Never put ice directly on the skin, and only leave it on for twenty minutes at the most. It should be at least twenty minutes before you reapply. The same goes for heat. This will prevent burns and frostbite from adding to your misery.

Compression means wearing a brace, ace bandage or a splint. The doctor will show you which to use and how to apply it. If it is a bandage, make sure not to put it on too tightly. This will provide stability in the joint and help keep the ice keep swelling down.

Elevation will do three things. It can help ease the pain, stop swelling and rest the joint. It should be above heart level, but not by a lot. Elevating too much can cause a tingling sensation, which is far from comfortable.

2) NSAIDs: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can help with the pain, reduce inflammation and help you heal faster. These medications include aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen. Willow bark and gotu kola are natural alternatives, though if you’re allergic to aspirin, avoid the willow. It is advisable to have something in your stomach when you take these, as they can cause it to be upset otherwise.

3) Hot wraps: A decoction of willow bark and gotu kola can be useful topically as well. Dip a cloth into the liquid once it is cool enough to touch. Wrap this around the joint, then wrap plastic around that to keep the heat in. You can use trash bags, plastic grocery bags or plastic wrap to do this.

If you choose to use alternative remedies, be sure to work with your doctor. Give a complete list of medications and supplements you use, especially if some of the medications are prescribed by another doctor. This will prevent herb/drug interactions and may help you avoid some side effects.