An ankle sprain is an extremely common injury that most of us will experience at some point in our lives. An ankle sprain usually occurs as a result of a misstep or fall, which can stretch or tear the ligaments that help us balance. Although it is a relatively common injury, ankle sprains can be very painful and can take us out of action for weeks or even months.
There are three grades of ankle sprains, with grade 1 being the least severe. There will be some minor pain and swelling, but you should still be able to walk and run, albeit with a slight limp. These sprains usually require about 2 weeks to fully heal.
A grade 2 sprain will involve more pain and swelling, as well as some bruising, and may take up to 48 hours to properly show up. Someone with a grade 2 sprain will limp heavily, and will probably need to rest for anywhere between 4 & 8 weeks.
A grade 3 sprain is the worst possible sprain, and usually involves a complete tear or rupture of the ligaments in the ankle. A grade 3 sprain will be immediately apparent, as the individual will experience severe pain and find it almost impossible to move or put pressure on the ankle. A grade 3 sprain may require surgery and a 3 month recovery period.
If you have sustained any sort of ankle sprain, the best technique you can use to speed up healing is the R.I.C.E method. R.I.C.E. stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation, which means you should start by staying off your feet as much as possible, which can include using crutches if it is a bad sprain. For the first few days after the sprain, you should put an ice pack on it for half an hour every 3 hours, to help reduce inflammation. Remember never to apply ice directly onto your skin. Use a tea towel if needed.
To properly compress the ankle, you will want to use an elastic bandage or a compression wrap. Although the injury is located in the ankle, you’ll want to wrap the surrounding area as well, so begin at the base of your toes and start wrapping the bandage around your foot. You’ll want each segment of the bandage to overlay the previous segment by about half, like roof tiles. Continue this until you have completely covered your foot and ankle, stopping when you begin to reach the middle of your shin.
The final step is elevation, which simply means keeping the injured area above your heart, such as by propping it on the armrest while lying on the couch. This helps reduce throbbing and internal bleeding, and should be done as often as possible (except when icing the injury).
Most ankle sprains are minor, but inconvenient, issues that can be treated at home with the R.I.C.E method. However, if you think you have sustained a grade 2 or 3 sprain, it is advisable to visit a specialist to ensure that the injury does not deteriorate or leave any lasting problems.