What helps a sprained ankle heal faster?

The limbs help humans to move around and are able to perform many tasks in their daily life. There can be many things that go wrong with the limbs such as from accidents or diseases. One of the common parts of the limbs that is easily affected is the ankle. Sprained ankle is a kind of injury that most of us have known as it usually happens and some of us may have even tripped to the extent of spraining the ankle. In this DoctorOnCall’s article, we will be learning about what can help a sprained ankle faster.

Before answering that, what is a sprained ankle? Ankle sprain is a condition where the strong ligaments stretch and tear. The ankle ligament are bands of tissues connecting the foot bones to the lower leg bones. Ligament helps humans to walk properly by stabilising the ankle joint, being a shock absorber when walking and preventing any unusual movement that potentially injures the ankle. Ankle sprains usually occur as the result of the wrong kind of movement. The common ways leading to sprained ankles is when the foot rolls to the inside such as tripping on slippery floors or mud. It could even occur when the ankle is rolled outwards or forceful blow to the ankle and extreme twisting motion. Besides tripping or falling, other people stomping on the foot, walking or running on uneven surfaces such as mountain trekking and sports such as football and tennis can be reasons behind a sprained ankle.

Symptoms of ankle sprains vary according to the severity of the sprain which means depending on how bad the ligaments are affected. The ankle ligament injuries range from overstretching or slight tears to partial or complete tears of the ligament. Common symptoms of a sprained ankle are bruising, pain to the ankle area, swelling of the ankle and difficulty walking or standing properly on the injured ankle. In severe ankle sprains, the ankle joint may become weak and lose sensation or numbness around the ankle sprains site.

            In most cases of ankle sprains, it does not need medical attention. Simple home remedies are usually enough to heal it. Quick action of RICE protocol following a suspected ankle sprain can heal the sprain faster. Below are what RICE stands for:

  • Rest- not moving the ankle by avoiding walking.
  • Ice- cold compress or cold spray to reduce the pain and swelling. This should be repeated 2 to 3 times a day, each time with 20-30 minutes of cold compression.
  • Compression- use bandage or dressing such as ACE bandage or elastic ankle sleeve to support the ankle and for immobilising purpose.
  • Elevate- raise the ankle above the chest level for the first 48 hours such as placing a pillow below the ankle.

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       There are other things that can be done to help the sprained ankle heal faster. Below are examples of what can be done for a quickly healed ankle sprains:

1)  Use heat pack or compress- Apply heat pack for 15-20 minutes at a time. Avoid using heat packs when the ankle is still swollen.

2)  Protection- Avoid aggravating the injury and things that can cause further harm to the already injured ankle. In the first 24 hours, avoid hot showers, hot packs and heat rubs as this may increase swelling and pain. Lie down or sit down more to avoid putting unnecessary pressure to the sprained ankle. Try to use crutches when walking to avoid adding more weight if you really need to move around.

3)  Stretch- Gentle stretch can help the blood flow to the injured area. It also helps to prevent further damages to the nearby muscle or other structures to the risk of damage from the sprained ankle. Try flexing the foot forward then backward or rolling clockwise then counterclockwise while sitting. Remember to not overextend the ankle or move it too much that causes pain. Ask your healthcare provider if you are unsure how and when to do this.

4)  Walking- Start walking in short distances around the house then gradually increase to a bigger distance when the ankle starts to heal. If a person is unable to walk properly yet without unusual position or body twisting to avoid pain, wait for 1-2 days before attempting to walk again.

5)  Massage- Gentle massage can be done in mild cases. Massaging the bottom of the foot or heel is the easiest massage to do at home. In severe injury or painful one, it is best to seek qualified therapist.

       Although most ankle sprains do not need specific treatment, it is best to meet a doctor when a person suspects themselves with sprain. This is important to make sure that the sprain itself is not a serious or different injury as delaying treatment can cause detrimental effects and delay rehabilitation.

            Ankle sprain recovery times depend on the severity of the injury. In general, it can take weeks to months. In mild cases, 1 to 3 weeks is able to heal the sprain but it may take 4 weeks up to 3 months to properly heal especially after a surgery. Physiotherapy or rehabilitation programs can speed the recovery time.

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