Sprained Ankle:

How to Effectively Treat a Sprained Ankle

By Dr. Ben Kim
DrBenKim.com

For years, the standard protocol for treating a sprained ankle has been the R.I.C.E. method - Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. While this protocol usually prevents further damage and allows gradual healing of a sprained joint, I have found that people recover more quickly and effectively when they follow the following recommendations:

Avoid wrapping or compressing the joint. Often times, wrapping the injured joint can prevent excess fluid from draining from area, prolonging inflammation and discomfort.

Elevating your injured ankle on a blanket or pillow while on the couch or in bed is helpful for fluid drainage. While your ankle is elevated, spell out the alphabet with your foot as often as you are able to. If the injury is severe, you may not be able to do this at all. Do it as soon as you are able to, as putting the injured joint through its normal range of motion helps with fluid drainage and prevents a build-up of scar tissue.

As soon as you are able to spell out the alphabet with your ankle, begin contrast therapy with hot and cold water. Fill two buckets or pans that are large enough to comfortably house your foot and ankle - one with hot water, and one with cold water. The water temperatures should be as hot and as cold as you can tolerate.

Begin by putting your foot and ankle into the hot water for two minutes. Slowly spell out the alphabet, taking the joint through as much range of motion as possible without creating too much pain.

Next, transfer your foot and ankle into the cold water for two minutes. Allow your foot to rest completely.

Go back and forth from hot to cold, taking your ankle through range of motion exercises in the hot water, and resting in the cold water, for a total of three to four cycles. Your final two minutes should be in cold water when you still have noticeable swelling in your ankle. As the swelling disappears, you can end with hot water.

The hot water and range of motion exercises will increase the size of your blood vessels, while the cold water and rest will decrease them. Going back and forth will create a pumping effect in your blood vessels, which will help to clear fluid and inflammation out of the injured area.

Repeat this whole process every few hours, up to three to four times per day.

As soon as you are able, put weight on your injured leg. You can begin by placing weight on your foot while you are seated. This can progress to slow walking, being careful not to put too much burden on your non-injured leg. If you can only walk by putting the bulk of your weight on your non-injured leg, it is better to stop until you are able to put more weight on your injured leg, or to use crutches or a walker. Putting too much weight on your good leg can cause injury to the ankle, knee, and/or hip joints of that leg.

Walking on your injured leg as soon as possible will activate the nerve fibers in the injured area that control your joint-position sense and balance. Repeated activation of these nerve fibers will help restore strength to the surrounding ligaments and muscles, as well as promote better circulation in the area.

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