Sprained Ankles… You can recover faster than you think!
You probably know someone who has rolled, twisted or sprained their ankle whether from playing sports, running, or you were carrying something and you missed a step! Having a sprained ankle can be a debilitating injury and if not treated properly, it can limit activities both at home and work for months before seeing progress sometimes.
Most ankle injuries are inversion ankle sprains (foot going inward). The outer part of the ankle tends to be more unstable compared to the inner (medial) side, making one more susceptible to injuries. Ankle sprains involve stretching or micro-tearing of the ligaments around the ankle. Because ligaments do not get a large blood supply (compared to your bones or muscles), when you decide to start/seek treatment can directly affect your recovery time. Most of us know to perform RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) when a sprain happens. However, movement/ROM (range of motion) of the ankle joint is critical to recovery because it actually stimulates healing. Movement allows the ligaments to begin to heal to stimulate mechanoreceptors (this is a sensory receptor that responds to mechanical pressure or distortion in our moveable joints- i.e. when you hit your elbow or knee against an object, we tend to rub this area to decrease our pain. The rubbing sensation is what stimulates mechanoreceptors and diminishes your pain.). Thus, when you sprain your ankle, you want to attempt to walk/move around, even if the pain is really bad, to try to begin healing (it must be noted that these tips apply to Grade I or mild Grade II sprains; in the case of moderate to severe Grade II sprains or a Grade III sprain, movement is not recommended as it can create further instability; a consultation will be needed with an orthopedist and possible surgery may be performed along with wearing a walking boot/cast).
Once the initial swelling has decreased after the 1st 3-5 days, applying heat to the area for 20 min at a time with a barrier is important to stimulate blood flow and decrease nearby muscle spasm. Next, beginning resistance band exercises to create motion is important to ensure faster healing. This should be done several times per week in order to increase mechanoreception and cause faster healing. Then, manipulation of the ankle to regain flexibility, mobility, and function can be performed by a licensed chiropractor (the doctor should ensure that there is no fracture or dislocation present by doing a physical exam and/or x-rays before manipulation occurs). Lastly, KinesioTex Tape should be applied by a licensed practitioner in a variety of applications (swelling, support, stability) to help stimulate movement and to heal the injured tissues faster because of the additional mechanoreception once is applying to the injured ankle.
**All of the treatment options discussed today involve treatment of a Grade I or mild Grade II sprain (with more severe injuries, these tips should not be recommended as they can cause possibly greater damage to the ankle. Please consult with any healthcare professional to determine the extent of the injury initially)
These measures do involve several steps for getting your ankle healthy again, but these steps will accelerate healing of your ankle and get back to doing what you enjoy most! Stay tuned to next month’s blog!