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How to Care for a Sprained Ankle

A sprained ankle is something that can affect more or less anyone at any age. More often than not, it’s simply a matter of landing on your foot funny and having some temporary pain, but sometimes the injury can be more substantial and the pain can last longer. Given the fact that our ankles are used in almost all of our daily activities, this can be quite an inconvenience. Properly caring for a sprained ankle can help reduce pain, recovery time, and the chance of further complications down the line.

Two Types of Sprains

The first thing you should do is identify which of the two types of sprains you have sustained. An inversion sprain is where you twist your foot in such a way that you land on the baby toe. This usually leads to pain in the outside part of the foot, as well as to the lateral ankle ligaments. 90% of ankle sprains are inverted.

The other type of sprain is known as an eversion sprain, which is when the foot lands in such a way that all your weight is placed on the inner side of the foot, which can damage up to three separate ligaments. Eversion sprains are far less common than inversion sprains, and only comprise of about 10% of total ankle sprains.

Degrees of Injury

Sprained ankles can be classified as either grade one, two, or three. The grade is decided by looking at how many ligaments have been injured in the sprain. Grade one is the least serious degree of injury and is the easiest to care for. A patient should approach a grade one sprain with the R.I.C.E. guidelines. This stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.

  1. Rest: As you would expect, the first step in treating a sprained ankle is to let it rest. Take the weight off it, try not to move it too much, and consider crutches if the pain is bad enough. Don’t try to just “suck up” the pain and resume your normal activities, as this will only make things worse.
  2. Ice: The second step is to use ice or a cold pack on the affected area. Put some ice in a kitchen towel and place it on the foot for about 20 minutes. Do not place the ice directly onto your skin, and do not exceed 20 minutes at a time. This will help reduce swelling.
  3. Compression: The third step is to compress the area. Using something like an ankle brace can help with swelling, pain, and recovery time by both constricting movement and offering support to the injured area. Compression is not always necessary in treating a grade one sprained ankle, but it will make recovery easier and faster.
  4. Elevation: The final step of the R.I.C.E. guidelines is to elevate the foot, preferably to above-heart level. The best way to do this is by lying down on a couch or bed with the foot resting on the armrest or footboard.

If you have a grade two sprain, the care regimen will be more or less the same as it would be for a grade one, although it will take more time. Compression is a much more important factor in a grade two sprain than it is in a grade one, and your doctor may immobilise the area in some way to ensure that the process goes as quickly and as smoothly as possible.

Grade 3 is the most serious type of ankle sprain, and means you could face permanent ankle problems if the injury is not properly treated. If you have a grade three sprain, you should listen to everything your doctor tells you. They may apply a cast, and surgery is also a possibility, depending on the extent of the damage, and how physically active you are. Surgery may be necessary for athletes, while a slower but less-invasive recovery may be better suited to other people. As these sprains can vary so widely on a case-by-case basis, you will need to speak with your Doctor to find the best treatment plan for you.