Saturday, December 4

How to Treat a Sprained Ankle at Home

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Whether you’re an elite athlete, a social rugby player or just someone taking a stroll around the garden, at some point, you will probably experience that awful moment when you know you have sprained your ankle. Luckily, there are ways to treat your injury at home before seeking medical treatment. Being able to follow the same treatment protocols as the experts can minimise recovery time, and enable you to make informed decisions about whether further medical intervention is needed.

Sprains are common in high-impact sports like rugby, but they can happen to anyone with just a slight misstep. So, how do you deal with it? Follow these easy steps to properly treat your sprained ankle at home:

Cool the area

Wintergreen Ice Spray

Before taking any further steps, make sure you cool the area. You can use ice or reach for a cooling ice spray, like Wintergreen Ice Spray, to cool the area, reduce pain and swelling, and minimise the bruising.

An ice spray should form part of your at-home medical kit, so you’re equipped to deal with emergencies when they arise. Ensure you always have a well-stocked first-aid kit at home, so you’ve got everything you need.

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Follow the P.R.I.C.E protocol for sprains

sprained ankle

When a sprain occurs remember P.R.I.C.E.

P stands for “protection” — protect your ankle by taking the weight off it.  If you are able to move it gently, without excruciating pain, you know it’s not broken, ligaments hadn’t been torn, and that you can continue with the protocol.  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. By stopping what you are doing and not placing any pressure on the sprained ankle, you will ensure there isn’t any 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.  Try doubling up the cryotherapy (cold therapy) with the ice spray and the ice pack, so you can maintain the cold sensation for longer without having to keep the ice pack on your skin for long periods, which can be painful.

sprained ankle

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.

If you have an elastic bandage at home this would be first prize, 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 discolouration of the skin. 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

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.

It’s important to have the necessary physiotherapy treatment depending on the grade of injury, and only return to train on the ankle once you are pain-free and have full mobility (range of motion) in the ankle. If one returns to training too soon you are at risk of re-injuring 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.

Type of ankle sprains

sprained ankle

Sprains are categorised into 3 groups – Grades 1-3, so keep reading to understand the symptoms of each and what to expect in terms of recovery.

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 (which we highly recommend!) 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 include swelling, soreness, and trouble keeping your balance while walking.

sprained ankle

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 include swelling and bruising, moderate pain, and difficulty walking.

sprained ankle

A grade 3 or severe sprain 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 include considerable swelling and bruising around your entire foot and ankle. It will be extremely painful and you will be unable to walk without the support of a crutch or a moon boot.

Whether you sprain your ankle in a rugby match or just through a simple misstep in the garden, don’t underestimate the importance of allowing it to heal properly, even if it takes months.  Dealing with an injury can be frustrating, but you are setting yourself up for more trouble if you rush things so be sure to rest and take it slow.

Find the best prices on first-aid kit essentials online with PriceCheck:

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