Get back on your feet quickly after a sprained ankle
When you sprain your ankle, it can quite literally knock you off your feet. A bruised, swollen or tender ankle often prevents you from going about your day as usual. You might not be able to stand or walk on it, and it can be sore and uncomfortable. If your ankle is sprained, you don’t want it to stop you living your life. Getting it healed as quickly as possible means you can get back to your everyday activities.
What is an ankle sprain?
A sprain is when you tear or twist a ligament in your joint. You’re likely to get them in your ankle, as well as your knees, wrists and even your thumbs. You could twist your ankle while walking or exercising, trip and fall or simply lose your footing, resulting in a sprain.
How can you tell if you’ve sprained your ankle?
An ankle injury can be tough to judge. Your first thought might be “is it broken?”, but it’s often obvious that it’s not. Unless you’re in a lot of pain and can’t move your foot or ankle, it’s more likely to be a sprain. If you’re not sure, an X-ray can confirm how serious the injury is.
You might have a few different symptoms if you’ve sprained your ankle, including bruising, swelling, pain and tenderness. Even though your ankle isn’t broken, it can still be hard to put weight on it, making it tricky to stand or walk around.
How long does a sprained ankle take to heal?
A sprained ankle can take anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks to heal. Most sprains will start to feel better after two weeks. The NHS recommends avoiding strenuous exercise for up to eight weeks, so it’s a good idea to put your usual workout on hold.
How to treat a sprained ankle – the RICE method
To treat your twisted ankle and help it to heal faster, you just need to remember RICE – rest, ice, compression, elevate.
Sprained ankle treatment is relatively easy. Firstly, you should rest your ankle and stop any unnecessary activity – use it as an excuse to put your feet up! An ice pack applied to your ankle (or something frozen wrapped in a tea towel if you don’t have one) will help to reduce swelling. For compression, a bandage or support on your ankle will support it so that you don’t move it too much. Raise your ankle too, by keeping it propped up on a pillow, a footstool or another comfortable surface.
No one wants to spend too long on the sofa with their leg raised, and you probably want to be healed as soon as possible. Fortunately, it’s recommended that you don’t spend too long sitting completely still. It’s essential to get back on your feet and using your ankle. When you can move it without pain getting in the way, doing so helps to avoid stiffness. It’s important not to rush yourself into recovery, but don’t stop moving your ankle altogether.
Wearing a compression bandage or ankle support gives the injury the support that it needs to help you keep moving, and helps to reduce swelling. You can get simple tube support bandages, which you can cut to size and fold. Or you can explore supports designed for more everyday use, which are often favoured by athletes and sports enthusiasts. Some supports are designed especially for ankle support, shaped to fit your ankle comfortably, while others are more suitable for knee support, elbow support and other joints.
Using a support allows you to heal a sprained ankle fast and get back on your feet more quickly. Sometimes all you need is that little bit of extra support to be able to walk and stand without discomfort.
How can you prevent ankle sprains?
Once your ankle is healed, you don’t want to have to deal with another sprain any time soon. You can do some things to avoid any more sprains in the future, so you’re not taken out by another injury.
One thing to consider, especially as you get older, is your balance. It’s often tripping or getting thrown off balance that leads to sprained ankles, so improving your balance can help. It’s also generally a good idea as you get older and falling can become more likely. There are some types of exercise you can do to improve your balance, from yoga to simply taking regular walks. It might also help to consider your shoes. Even if you’ve been wearing high heels all your life, they could increase your chances of rolling your ankles. If you enjoy walking or hiking, shoes or boots with good ankle support will help to protect you.
It’s smart to make sure that you stretch before you exercise, as well as after. It will help to loosen up your joints and prevent both sprains and strains. If you have had injuries before or have any weakness in your ankle, wearing a support or brace every day can help you too.