Sprained ankles are certainly a common, almost mundane injury, but that doesn’t make them any less debilitating. Taking anywhere from five to 14 days to heal, even a minor sprain can mean days wasted resting in bed, forcing patients to skip work until they recover.
Generally speaking, a sprained ankle happens when the delicate joint is rolled or twisted in an unnatural way. Minor sprains stress the surrounded ligaments, while more serious accidents can cause tears. While time is the most important factor in recovering from any injury, there are a few doctor-approved steps you can take to expedite the healing of your sprained ankle.
Follow the RICE Method
RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Any sprain will require some amount of bed rest, as putting weight on the injury can cause further stress and damage to the ligament. Rest can also mean using a cane, crutches, or other walking assistant to restore some mobility to your life while still minimizing weight put on the injury.
Icing the injury will not only curb the pain, as it also helps to keep inflammation and swelling of the afflicted area under control. Ice packs should be used for the first 24 to 72 hours from the injury. Apply an ice pack for about 15 minutes every 90 minutes or so.
Compression involves wrapping the sprained ankle in a compression wrap. Be sure not to wrap the the ankle too tightly, as this can actually inhibit healing. The bandage should be wrapped firmly enough to stabilize the injury, but not so much that it causes numbness or tingling in the surrounding area.
Lastly, elevating the ankle, whether with a pillow, stack of towels, or block of foam for around 3 hours a day can further help to combat swelling and promote healing. The ankle should be elevated roughly parallel to your heart to ensure healthy blood flow to and from the sprain.
Managing Pain and Inflammation
Over-the-counter pain medications can be used in conjunction with the RICE method to further accelerate healing. Ibuprofen, a comparatively gentle NSAID, is excellent at not only managing pain, but also reduces inflammation. Ibuprofen is commonly used by arthritis sufferers to control joint swelling and it’s just as beneficial for temporary injuries like ankle sprains.
One helpful trick is to take alternate doses of aspirin and ibuprofen. Follow a dosing schedule of 3 hours, switching which medicine you take each dose, but be sure not to exceed the daily limit for either. This will allow you to achieve the maximum benefit of both drugs.
An Epsom salt soak can do wonders for a sprained ankle. Epsom salt, when mixed with warm water, separates into its constituents, magnesium and sulfate, which are diffused throughout the water. These minerals can then enter the skin, helping to promote relaxation and reduce tension in the stressed ligaments.
Another remedy worth trying is fish oil supplements. Not only are they great for your heart, but fish oil has natural anti inflammatory properties which can dramatically reduce swelling.
Consult a Doctor
If after 72 hours your mobility hasn’t improved, consider setting an appointment with your doctor. A physician can perform x-rays to determine if any ligaments were torn, as well as prescribe more powerful anti-inflammatory and pain medications.
Furthermore, having a detailed, professional report from a doctor is a powerful piece of evidence to have should the cause of your injury warrant contacting an injury lawyer. Clear records demonstrating the severity of the injury can be an indispensable asset, especially in cases where the sprain requires bed rest, thereby interfering with your ability to work.
Time Heals All Wounds
It’s easy to feel guilty for sitting around in bed all day, even when you are injured, but taking the proper steps to treat your sprained ankle will ensure that it heals properly. Your ligaments need time to recover, and stressing them too soon after an injury can cause permanent damage. That said, following these general guidelines can reduce recovery time dramatically, getting you back on your feet and back to work in no time.