Physical Therapy

How to Heal an Ankle Sprain

Ankle sprains can happen instantaneously. When the ligaments are stretched or strained beyond the natural range of motion, the consequence is painful. The ligaments can simply be pulled or even torn. When this happens the foot and ankle will swell, which will be accompanied by pain, and any motion might become difficult. In the case of a tear in the ligament, the foot might be difficult to lift or move easily. Taking good care of a sprain or strain is important since too much activity too soon can result in re-injury.

Taking the time to heal

Most ankle sprains can take 4 to 6 weeks to heal. For very painful sprains a few days of bed rest are needed and it’s important to keep the foot elevated as much as possible. Walking on crutches is an option if placing any weight on the foot or ankle is very painful or if mobility is very difficult. Strains and sprains cannot be cured by walking. Do not try to force the foot or ankle to bear weight if there is too much pain as this will aggravate the injury and delay healing. Taking time to heal the sprain completely is important as a re-injury or repeated severe sprains can lead to long-term joint pain or weakness. Treating the ankle with care can prevent weakening that can lead to more sprains.

What to do for ankle sprain

* Rest the foot and ankle. Do not try to make the foot bear any weight if there is pain.

* Alternating warm then cold compresses can help with both the pain and swelling.

* Over-the-counter medications for pain will help reduce the swelling. For bad sprains a doctor might prescribe medication for the pain or to reduce the swelling.

* Provide support to the foot and ankle with a brace or a wrap.

When the foot can bear weight it is important to offer good support for both the ankle and foot. Wearing high heels, loose low heels or sandals leaves the ankle with no support and there is a danger of re-injury. A shoe that covers and supports the arch and top of the foot as well as the ankle is best. There should be some method used to protect the ankle for rotating to the sides or back at an unnatural angle.

Picking the right supports or braces

Use ankle supports or braces that give the foot and ankle extra support. The ideal supports or braces will be light weight and fit easily inside the shoe. The support or brace should be easily adjustable and comfortable as it might be necessary to wear it for at least a few months, especially if activities include sports. The foot and angle should be able to move in natural positions easily. Larger braces or supports should have hinges that allow natural movement. For many strains or sprains, a cast type support that fits around the foot and ankle will be enough support, but for really severe injuries a support that comes up to the lower calf is usually best.