Whether your favourite activity is as strenuous as ice hockey or as easy going as gardening, you’re never immune to the dreaded sprained ankle! Even walking to the car in the morning can cause a trip that can result in an ankle sprain.
It’s important to point out though, that although we often refer to most ankle injuries as such, not every ankle roll winds up being a sprain.
A sprained ankle is a specific condition that is caused by the tearing of either the anterior talofibular ligament or the calcaneal fibular ligament.
We rank ankle sprains by degrees.
A first degree sprain involves only a slight tearing or stretching of a ligament. Often the joint is still functional though a little painful and sometimes swollen.
With a second degree ankle sprain the tear is more severe. Often the ankle joint is unstable and will be visibly swollen. Usually putting weight on the foot is almost impossible without enduring significant pain.
Third degree sprains are the most serious. In the case of a third degree sprain, the ligament is completely torn, walking or even standing without support is impossible. Pain and swelling are also more pronounced.
For a first degree sprain, healing time can take a week or two. Once you get up to third degree sprains, expect your healing to last 8 – 12 weeks! In some cases, surgery may even be required to repair the damage.
As physiotherapists, while there are many home remedies out there for treating an ankle sprain, there is one remedy that always works best, and it goes by the acronym P.R.I.C.E.
Step one begins with Protecting the area. Contrary to what some people will tell you do not massage the injured ankle. A sprain needs to be protected and not be interfered with. Wearing soft sole shoes and ideally footwear with lots of padding around the sides is a good idea.
Step two is rest. It’s an obvious one, but get and keep your weight off the ankle for 48 – 72 hours immediately following the injury. If you must get around for work, use crutches or even a wheelchair, if one is accessible.
Step three is ice. Ice solves so many injury problems it’s too bad we weren’t all made with little ice machines built into us. Ice is an anti-inflammatory and as is the case with most injuries, the reducing inflammation reduces pain and accelerates healing. Ice the ankle every couple of hours for 20 minutes or so. You can substitute an ice pack for a good old fashioned bag of frozen vegetables!
Step four requires you compress the area of the injury which you can do through wrapping the area with a tensor bandages or tape. While tapes offer more stability and work great in sports situations, tensor bandages, which stretch and are comfortable are also a great go-to. If you start experiencing increased swelling, tingling, increased pain, numbness or your toes start turning blue, your wrap is too tight.
Finally, you’ll want to elevate the foot, which is step 5. Keeping the foot above the heart for at least three hours a day for the first few days will help reduce swelling and bruising.
While we can’t be there with you to help avoid injuries like sprained ankles, we’re always here to help you treat them when they occur. If you’ve suffered any sort of sprain, call our clinic and set up an appointment to drop by and see us.