There are few feelings worse than the moments after you’ve fallen or landed on your foot awkwardly. and realise you’re dealing with a sprained ankle. If you have the right kit Most sprains can be taken care of at home without requiring medical intervention.
Daliah Hurwitz, a massage therapist for Wintergreen™, whose hands have worked on many of the world’s top rugby players, explains just how to treat a sprained ankle.
“Sprains are common in high-impact sports like rugby, but they can happen to anyone with just a slight misstep. I rolled my ankle recently while I was trying to carry my large Golden Retriever outside while he was recovering from surgery! Obviously, I have a pretty well stocked medical kit, but I think every home should have a basic kit. I immediately followed the P.R.I.C.E protocol for sprains”
What is the P.R.I.C.E. Protocol?
PRICE stands for Protection, Rest, Ice, Compress and Elevate. Five things to do immediately after a sprain to help with healing.
P – protection – Take the weight off your ankle. If you are able to move it gently, without excruciating pain, it’s very likely that it isn’t broken and the ligaments have not torn. If you aren’t able to move your ankle gently without severe pain, you should get checked out by a doctor as soon as possible.
R – Rest. Stop what you are doing and don’t place further pressure on the sprained ankle. Rest it to ensure no further damage to the ligaments.
I – Ice. Apply an ice pack (or ice cubes/packet of frozen veggies wrapped in a dish towel) to the area for 15-20 minutes every couple of hours. You can also use Wintergreen™ Ice Spray which immediately cools the area down. That combined with an ice pack will help you maintain the cold sensation for longer without having to keep the ice pack on your skin for long periods, which can be painful.
C – Compress the ankle with two or even three pairs of thick socks, or, if you know how, by wrapping a bandage around the ankle, to further constrict the blood vessels and decrease swelling and provide a degree of support.
Says Daliah, “If I was a rugby player or an athlete with a sprained ankle my team physio would bandage it up, and if you have elastic bandage at home this would be my first choice. But it’s important to know how to apply the bandage correctly so you don’t constrict the circulation too much and cause numbness, tingling or discoloration. To correctly apply the bandage, place it straight onto the skin, starting a few inches below the ankle injury and ending a few inches above the injury. Wrap in a spiral or figure eight with medium tension on the bandage.”
E – Elevate your ankle by lying down and placing a cushion under it. When the ankle is higher than the level of your heart, blood doesn’t pool around the injury causing more pain and swelling, and increased down-time.
Recovering From a Sprained Ankle
Recovery time from an ankle sprain very much depends on the severity of the sprain, and it’s important that you give yourself enough time to fully recover or you risk ongoing problems. By carrying out the P.R.I.C.E protocol for two or three days immediately following the sprain, you will give your ankle the best possible chance to recover completely.
“If one returns to training to soon you are at risk of reinjuring the ankle which can take the initial sprain from an acute injury to a more chronic condition such as arthritis. Patience and perception is key, so listen to and look after your body,” says Dahlia.
Sprains are categorised into 3 groups – Grades 1-3, each level has a different recovery period.
With a Grade 1 or mild sprain, your ligament has probably just been stretched, and you might have a small tear. If you take it easy, within 2 weeks you can expect significant improvement, but you’ll have to wait up to 4 weeks before you can resume sport or exercise. Typically, full mobility is regained after around 4 weeks.
Symptoms of Grade 1 sprain:
- Trouble keeping your balance while walking
With a Grade 2 or moderate sprain, injuries to the ligaments are more serious and there will typically be a partial ligament tear. It will take around 6-8 weeks before enough scar tissue has formed to properly support your ankle.
Symptoms of Grade 2 sprain:
- Swelling and bruising
- Moderate pain
- Difficulty walking
Grade 3 or severe sprains can result in completely torn ligaments or tendons. Surgery may be required to repair the tear, and it will take at least 12 weeks to start healing. Expect to wait around 6 months before you can be fully mobile and return to sport and exercise.
Symptoms of Grade 3 sprain:
- Considerable swelling and bruising around your entire foot and ankle
- Extremely painful
- Unable to walk without the support of a crutch or a moon boot
Information was provided by Dahlia Hurwitz and Wintergreens and is not intended to replace medical advice.