Treatment for Ankle Sprain


It’s kind of funny … when you were reading through all the feedback about last year’s version of the mud run you just did, and you read all the comments that people posted on Facebook , you just kind of skipped over the parts where people talked about their injuries.

It’s almost like you thought that it wouldn’t – couldn’t – happen to you.

But now you’ve completed the run and you’re pumped with having accomplished it, but your ankle is throbbing, and has been ever since you landed funny jumping down from the rope swing – or was it the cargo net?


When you fall and your ankle twists, or when you meant to pivot but the foot just doesn’t go, the end result is a sprain.

Congratulation on not letting it keep you from finishing, but that doesn’t change the fact that after the adrenaline dissipated the damn thing hurts. Here’s what to do.

First things first – pull out the old tried and true RICE method. Rest – Ice – Compression – Elevation for fifteen minutes at a time about once an hour are always the go-to for the first couple of days, regardless of how bad the sprain is.

Over the counter anti-inflammatory medications can help with both pain and swelling, especially if you take them consistently. After the first couple of days, it’s time to shift from RICE to a hot/cold regimen where you dunk your injured ankle into a tub of hot water for a few minutes, then going back and forth between the hot tub and a tub of ice water for thirty seconds each for a total of about ten minutes. It may feel like torture, but it helps send healing blood circulating to the area and pulls a lot of the swelling away.

If you’re concerned about losing conditioning, feel free to hop onto a stationary bike or do some swimming, but when it comes to walking or putting weight on the ankle don’t push yourself.

If you’re trying to figure out whether you can treat this thing yourself or if you need to see a doctor you can usually get a pretty good idea by how it looks and how swollen it ends up, as well as by how much weight you can put on it and what you can make it do. If you can flex the ankle backwards and forwards it’s a good sign, as is being able to air write the letters of the alphabet with your toes.

If a day or two after the injury you still can’t do either of those moves, you probably have too much to handle on your own and should give your doctor a call for a possible X-ray, MRI or CT scan to see just how bad it is. Keep in mind that while a minor sprain is really just a stretch of the ligaments, a bad one represents a full on tear that can take weeks to heal, and the longer you tell yourself that it’s nothing, the longer it will take to get the healing started.

One way or another, it’s a mistake to try to power your way through recovery. The ligaments in the ankle are less resilient than we like to think they are, and you shouldn’t start thinking about stressing them again until you feel pretty confident that you are at just about one hundred percent. Going up and down stairs is a pretty good gauge, as is the ability to hop up and down on the injured foot a few times without pain.


Even once you’re there and can do that, it’s important to do some strengthening and balance exercises on a regular basis, because researchers have determined that, much like concussions, ankle sprains can become a chronic injury.

Once you’ve had one your ankle loses a lot of its natural stability and you’re much more prone to twist the ligaments again. The only way to guard against that happening is to apply yourself to prevention. Balancing and strengthening exercises don’t take a whole lot of time and can go a long way to not only strengthening the ankle but also making you feel more confident when you go out for your first post-injury run (click here to read more about ankle sprain injury prevention tips).

Having been injured many times, including grade 2 sprains on both ankles and a partial ACL tear from a skydiving accident, the prospect of recovery can be downright discouraging and even depressing. But this is exactly the time to embrace the “suck” and get over the hump and start your recovery process. Nothing lasts forever, including injuries.



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