How to Fix a Sprained Ankle

how-to-fix-a-sprained-ankleThe ankle sprain is the most common type of sprain.  An ankle sprain is caused when ligaments connecting your ankle and foot are flexed beyond their natural capacity.  When this happens, these ligaments can become stretched or torn, causing what is commonly known as a sprained ankle.

Symptoms of a Sprained Ankle

If you twist your ankle and soon afterward have symptoms of pain, swelling, bruising, or restricted range of motion, it is likely sprained.  Swelling is caused by increased fluid in the injured tissue.  Pain is attributed to the sensitivity of the nerves as a result of the swelling.  Redness and warmth are additional symptoms caused by the increased blood flow to the area.

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When to Seek Medical Care

Usually, a sprained ankle can be treated at home, but occasionally the injury is more severe.  When the symptoms are extreme or if there is no improvement within a week, it is best to see a physician to rule out more serious injuries such as a bone fracture or bone chipping.

Home Treatment for a Sprained Ankle

The most common protocol is called RICE which is an acronym for rest, ice, compression, and elevation.  Rest is needed to allow the injured ligaments to heal.  You should avoid excessive movement and weight bearing which can exacerbate the injury.  Minimize movement for the first 48 hours after the injury. During this time the ankle should be iced to help reduce the swelling.

Ice is also helpful for reducing the pain.  Ice should be applied for 20 minutes at a time, 4 to 8 times a day.  Do not apply ice directly to the skin – make sure there is a layer of material to protect the skin.

When you are not icing the injury, compression will help to minimize the swelling.  Elastic bandages and braces can be used to apply compression.  Finally, the injured ankle should be elevated above your heart to help blood flow which will also minimize swelling.

Another option is the H.E.M. method which stands for healthy blood flow, eliminate swelling, and mobility. H.E.M is a three-step rehabilitation system which can reduce healing time and speed recovery. The goal of the program is to break down scar tissue in the ankle, resulting in increased flexibility.

This flexibility prevents stiffness which allows for shorter recovery time. Healthy blood flow allows healing immune cells to remove the waste and debris that collect in the ankle as a result of the sprain.  Elimination of swelling helps to remove scar tissue which causes stiffness and prevents full range of motion.

Mobility increases the strength and stability of the ankle and allows the injury to heal for a full recovery.  The H.E.M. program can be done at home in about 30 minutes and does not require any special equipment. For faster recovery, it is recommended that you perform the three steps once or twice a day.

Medical Treatments

If you choose to seek medical treatment for a sprained ankle, one of the options you may be offered is laser treatment.  Laser therapy helps to increase blood flow which brings in nutrients needed to repair the damaged ligaments.

It also increases lymphatic flow to reduce swelling, expediting the body’s natural healing process. Mild sprains show improvement with laser therapy in an average of 3 to 5 treatments.

Kinesio taping is another popular treatment offered by doctors and physical therapists to help heal sprains. Kinesio tape is an elastic, adhesive tape that is specifically applied to a sprained ankle to re-educate the neuromuscular system, reduce inflammation, prevent injury, and promote good circulation.

As your ankle heals, scar tissue builds up around the injury.  The benefit of this therapy is that it still allows for range of motion while stabilizing the joint to prevent further injury.

The goal of physical therapy is to use hands-on treatment and exercise to help heal the injured ankle and prevent further injuries.  Physical therapy includes range of motion exercises, muscle strengthening exercises, body awareness, balance training, functional training, and activity specific training.  This combination of exercises and training will allow you to gradually and safely return to your activities without causing further injury.

Prognosis

If diagnosed early and treated quickly, most ankle sprains heal with few complications.  Recovery time is determined by the severity of the sprain and the consistency of the treatment and rehabilitation program.  Strengthening exercises should be continued after the ankle has healed to prevent future injuries.

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