Health Education

Ankle Sprain

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A sprain is a twisting injury to the ankle and 80% are caused by rolling the foot inward. This action commonly stretches the lateral collateral ligaments, the weakest of the ligaments that hold the ankle and foot bones together, and can lead to instability and re-injury. Spraining an ankle can increase your risk of re-injury as much as 40-70%. But proper post-injury care, rehabilitation exercises and bracing can decrease the risk.

What are the signs and symptoms of an ankle sprain?

The classic signs of inflammation are rubar (redness), tumor (swelling), calor (heat), and dolar (pain). Often the ankle will swell considerably but the size of the swelling does not correlate with the seriousness of the injury.

What is the first thing I should do if I suspect a sprained ankle?

Immediately begin using R-I-C-E which stands for:

  • Rest from all activities that cause pain or limping. You may even need to use crutches until you can walk without pain and limping.
  • Ice: place a plastic bag with ice on the ankle for 15-20 minutes, 3-5 times/day for the first 24-72 hours. Leave ice off at least ½ -1 hour between applications.
  • Compression: wrap an elastic bandage from the toes up to mid-calf, using even pressure (loosen if the toes turn blue or feel cold). Wear until swelling decreases.
  • Elevate: the ankle above heart-level (hip-level is acceptable during class).

What things can be done to restore normal ankle function?

Be patient. It will often take several weeks for the ankle to feel totally normal. After the initial period of inflammation, stretching exercises can facilitate the healing process. Loosen tight leg muscles. Tightness makes it hard to use stairs, walk, run and jump. Hold each of the following stretching exercises 15 seconds at a gentle stretch but do not bounce. Do 15-20 repetitions, 5-7 days a week.

What are some stretches I can do for my ankle?

The following are general ankle stretches that we find helpful:

  • The pullback stretch: flex your foot back toward your body. Sit with your knee straight and hold the foot position as long as possible. Do as frequently as possible for the first 3-10 days.
  • The calf stretch: sit with your knee straight and a towel looped around the ball of your foot. Slowly pull back until you feel your upper calf stretch. Once you can stand, try stretching with your hands on a wall. Place the injured foot behind the other with the toes pointing forward. Keep your heels down and back leg straight. Slowly bend the front knee until you feel the calf stretch in the back leg.
  • The heel stretch: sit with your knee slightly bent. Loop a towel around the ball of your foot. Slowly pull back until you feel a stretch in the lower calf and heel. Once you can stand, try placing your injured foot behind the other with toes pointing forward. Keeping heels down, slowly bend back knee until you feel heel stretch in back leg.

How do I prevent recurrent injury?

In addition to stretching, balance and strengthening exercises may be useful.

Is bracing necessary? Injured ligaments can take up to 16 weeks or more to heal. An ankle brace helps protect the ligaments not only during recovery but also when returning to sport or exercise activities. However, bracing cannot replace strengthening exercises-strong lower leg muscles provide support to inju