NY Podiatry Advice: Don’t Let That Ankle Sprain Get the Best of You
Posted by Jenn F. on Thursday, October 2nd, 2014
Sprains are a difficult injury to prevent. Sure, you can wear good shoes and pay attention to your surroundings, but often people tell us one minute they were stepping off a curb, and the next they were on the ground, unsure of what had happened. According to The Cleveland Clinic, 23,000 ankle sprains happen each day in America. However, researchers estimate that half of all ankle sprains are treated at home and never get reported to health providers. It’s hardly surprising that three-quarters of Americans will suffer from the dreaded ankle sprain at some point in life. It can be a real bummer to know you’ve been slowed down, but The Center for Podiatric Care & Sports Medicine has tips to get you through this difficult time.
Follow the RICE principle for immediate relief.
First, you need to take care of yourself physically. The first 48 hours are crucial to your recovery. Follow the RICE principle:
– Rest: To you, walking may seem like “rest,” but we mean get off your feet entirely! Try to limit the amount of times you go up and down the stairs. Get on the couch, lie in bed, take a few days off work — do whatever you must to take the stress off your ankle. A stabilizing ankle brace, cold-therapy brace, or walking boot is recommended to take the weight off.
– Ice: Apply a cold pack to the painful area. This practice helps inflammation go down, relieves pain, and improves mobility. Research shows the best method is to ice aggressively for the first 72 hours following an injury. You want to ice at least 20 minutes per hour. If you have the time, alternate 10 minutes on, 10 minutes off. Do not ice for longer than 20 minutes at a time, or you risk damage to the tissues. You may massage the ice around or move it to prevent frostbite. Also, place a barrier between the ice and your skin. After a few days, you can stop ice therapy as the swelling should have reduced significantly by this point. [Note: DO NOT apply heat directly to this type of injury as it can increase bleeding and swelling.]
– Compression: A compression wrap decreases swelling to help you heal faster in the first 36 hours. We recommend that you wear your immobilization boot or cast outside of the compression wrap. You can take the compression wrap off for sleeping and showering.
– Elevation: Get your ankle 12-18 inches above the heart, propped on pillows. Aim to elevate for 2-3 hours a day.
We also recommend taking an anti-inflammatory like Advil or Motrin for swelling. Tylenol can also help with pain relief at the very least.
Set goals for your recovery.
There are three main goals to work toward following a sprained ankle:
1. Restore motion and flexibility: Gently move your ankle vertically up and down. After five days, gently turn the heel horizontally, inward and outward. Restore strength in your calf muscles by stretching them — lean forward with your hands against the wall until you feel the stretch. Hold it for 10 seconds.
2. Restore strength: Once 60 to 70% of normal motion has returned, you may use resistance bands to begin conditioning your ankles.
You can, usually, begin these exercises within one week. Soak the ankle in warm water before the exercises and ice after to minimize the risk of further injury.
*Note: Ankle sprains take an average of six weeks to heal, but they may take up to four months in severe cases.
Talk to yourself.
Research shows that pessimistic thinking can impede progress. Abandon hopeless phrases like “I will never regain range of motion” or “I am getting nowhere fast” or “I hate being immobile.” Instead, begin self-talk with phrases like:
– “I have made some progress today.”
– “If I keep working at it, I will get my range of motion and flexibility back.”
– “Sticking to my exercise routine will help me.”
Keep your mind busy.
Can’t walk? Well, what better time for a horse carriage ride around Central Park? Or perhaps you can take a nice dinner cruise. At home, you can sign up for Netflix and start working your way through the top TV series. Pick up a Kindle and start reading. Sit at your dining room table and master the art of baking and candy-making. Learn to sew or crochet. Make jewelry or feathery hair pieces. Start a woodworking or model-painting project. Pinterest.com is a great place to find craft ideas. Work on strength-training your arms with free weights. Call up old friends. Scrapbook. Play board games. Whatever you do, KEEP MENTALLY ACTIVE! Don’t dwell on your injury too much.
Get professional help.
The podiatric surgeons, podiatrists, and physical therapists at The Center for Podiatric Care & Sports Medicine can help! We can diagnose sprains versus fractures. We can minimize your pain and start you on the path to recovery. We can perform surgery if it is necessary or immobilize you with a cast. The RICE therapy is a good start, but the best treatment is customized to the individual and the severity of the sprain, so if you live in or near New York City, look us up!
If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. Geldwert, Dr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.