Ouch! Your ankle rolls to the side and your lower leg blazes in agony. A sudden, sharp pain warns you of a severe injury. After you hobble to the couch, what should you do to recover? A sprained ankle occurs when an abrupt movement causes your ligaments in the limb to stretch and tear. These hardy, fibrous tissues connect your foot bones to your leg bones.
While you don’t need to see a doctor for mild strains, you should see a physician if the area looks malformed, or you can’t walk more than a few steps. Otherwise, use the following techniques to recover from your injury quickly.
RICE, RICE, Baby
RICE stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation. The goal of RICE is reducing inflammation and easing the pain. It’s an excellent first treatment for nearly any injury, including strains.
- Rest: This instruction means immobilising the joint and keeping weight off it. Swelling is usually the most extreme 48 hours after the initial injury, so be careful. You can have a friend buy you an ankle brace at your nearest drugstore. If you have a severe sprain, you may need to visit an urgent care centre for crutches.
- Ice: Cooling helps reduce swelling in the joint. Avoid placing ice directly on the skin, as this can damage your capillaries. Wrap an ice pack in a towel before applying.
- Compression: You can buy compression socks at any drugstore. Wrapping the limb with gauze also helps immobilise the joint and reduce swelling.
- Elevation: OK, you’re injured — but you have the perfect excuse to kick your feet up. Keeping your legs elevated at the level of your heart increases blood flow to the region and speeds healing.
Up Your Nutrition Game
Your food can act as medicine to help you heal if you make good choices. To speed recovery, you need to increase your intake of specific nutrients.
Increase your lean protein intake — protein makes up the fibres of your ligaments and tendons. It also helps minimise muscle loss while you recover. If you eat meat, stick to lower-fat versions like chicken and fish. If you follow a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, increase your intake of dark, leafy greens like kale, as well as nuts and seeds.
Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation. Fish like mackerel contain high levels of omega-3s, as do walnuts and chia seeds. Vitamin K directs calcium to bones and helps strengthen joints. Indulge in Swiss chard and arugula, as well as Brussels sprouts and dairy from grass-fed cows.
Slowly Increase Your Activity Level
After the first 48 hours of rest, you’re probably feeling restless. However, you need to exercise caution when returning to regular activities. Don’t try to run a marathon yet!
If you have access to a pool, return to activity in the water first. The buoyancy of the liquid reduces the impact on joints while restoring your range of motion. You can walk laps or swim — or try an aqua aerobics class.
Exercises like tai chi and yoga use gentle, flowing movements and minimise the impact on joints. When practicing yoga, avoid balancing poses like Natarajasana or dancer pose. You don’t want to risk re-injury.
Do walk for short distances. Start by walking indoors, perhaps by going to the mall for a stroll. The flat surface helps prevent falling. If you need to, use a cane or a walker at first. It’s better to feel embarrassed for a short period than to end up on the disabled list longer.
Perform Ankle Mobility Exercises
To prevent future injuries, you need to increase mobility around your ankle joint. To stretch the Achilles, take a knee with the toes of your top leg two inches from the wall. Slowly lean forward, trying to touch your knee to the wall — don’t force it if you can’t.
While sitting on your couch, alternately lift each leg. Rotate your ankle first in one direction, then the other. Point and flex your foot repeatedly. Invest in a simple foam roller and lie on the floor. Roll your lower leg back and forth across the device — this increases blood flow to the ankle, speeding recovery.
Protect Your Ankles In The Future
Once you recover from your sprained ankle, take precautions to avoid future injury. Wear appropriate shoes when you exercise. Select sneakers with sufficient padding for high-impact activities. If you partake in dance-style workouts like Zumba, invest in a pair of shoe gliders to help your feet slide easily over surfaces. If you live to hike, get properly fitted boots that offer ankle support.
You Can Speed Your Recovery From A Sprained Ankle
You can recover more quickly from a sprained ankle by following the right techniques. Get adequate rest and eat healthy foods. Before long, you’ll build your way back to your usual routine.