One of the most common injuries we experience as active individuals is the classic rolled ankle or ankle sprain. But first, let’s throw R.I.C.E. out the window- kinda! While these principles: rest, ice, compression, and elevation are not bad, we have better information now. Whether you play sports or are victim of a treacherous curb, or you probably know someone that rolled their ankle recently, below are some tips in order to get back to normal or help someone else get back to normal faster.
First Things First! IF NOTHING ELSE READ THIS.
The hard stop is if you can or cannot take steps after rolling your ankle. If you are UNABLE to take 4 steps, even with pain, you should go get an x-ray. This is a quick and efficient way to determine the next path you should take! Give us a call or fill out a Free Phone Consultation form if you have any questions or need clarification! Not able to complete this may mean you have a fracture. Right after the injury walking will be painful, but you should still be able to put weight through that leg and take a few steps.
Okay, “R.I.C.E.” is not bad for a rolled ankle
Protecting the injured ankle the first couple days – wearing a brace, resting, and using crutches are all okay. This is the time to still use ice for pain management and some compression for that pesky swelling. Right after the injury no one wants to move and the next day may be rough too. As the days progress you should decrease the amount of support you are using. Try to walk and move when you can, every 30 minutes is a good rule of thumb. We do not want to get the secondary side effect of muscle atrophy!
Movement is Medicine
Research supports the earlier you can get moving the better, especially with rolling an ankle! The use of brace and compression may make moving easier in the short-term. That’s okay because some movement is better than none! Movement as simple as walking and some ankle alphabets are a good place to start. The actual walking creates a pump system in your leg to help with some of the swelling. It is amazing how the body helps itself. The other benefit of moving early is less atrophy and stiffness occurs. After moving around it is totally okay to ice and elevate 😉 to help manage any soreness that develops. Do not cause sharp pains or pain that last longer than five to ten minutes after activity. Compression will help mitigate swelling and stiffness as you are moving around more, but not at 100% just yet.
Strengthen those muscles!
Heel raises right out of the gate may be too much, you will build to those. Someone you know or you yourself have resistance bands. Looping them around your foot and pushing against the resistance is a great place to start. You will want to complete the same repitions turning your foot inward, outward and pulling your toes and foot towards your face. Having a partner or friend help you may be necessary. Progressing towards heel raises may take some time. Remember strengthening does not happen overnight. Higher reps (10-20) and less resistance is the place you should start with exercises. If any exercise you attempt causes a sharp pain you need to hold off on that one.
See a Medical Professional
Ankle sprains or rolled ankles should definitely be assessed by a medical professional *cough* A Physical Therapist *cough* to determine if any other impairments need to be addressed. Sometimes these impairments that were not corrected or targeted can lead to slower return to your activity or even future issues with your performance. Even though a ligament, tendon, or muscle were injured those are not the only structures involved. Please do not let a simple injury sideline you longer than needed. Remember, if you cannot take 4 steps go get an X-ray. The medical professional will also get you out of the brace, compression, and off an assisted device under their supervision taking away any confusion on when to progress.
Rehabbing a Rolled Ankle
Summary time! MAKE SURE YOU CAN PUT WEIGHT THROUGH YOU LEG. Use the R.I.C.E method as pain management system, resting more the first couple days, then progressing the amount you are moving. Strengthening is important and can help with the swelling, with eventual normal walking again. Getting assessed is important and should be tailored to what you need to get back to what you want to do.