An ankle sprain occurs when the ligament, which is a tough band of tissue with limited elasticity, holding the bones in the ankle joint, is excessively stretched or torn by the twisting of the ankle out of its normal range of movement. The ankle is a common site for sports related injury, especially the ligaments on the sides of the ankle are most commonly involved.
Ankle injury causing pain and swelling needs to be evaluated by a doctor. In severe sprains, your doctor may ask you for an X-Ray to rule out any fracture or an MRI to assess the extent of the ligament injury. You will be prescribed some pain killers like paracetamol or ibuprofen and the RICE treatment, which I will shortly discuss, for most sprains. More severe sprains may require a cast for complete immobilization or even a surgery to repair the torn ligament.
It is recommended you use the RICE treatment, that is the R-I-C-E treatment in the event of a sprain. Here, R stands for rest, where you need to stay off the injured foot until you are able to bear weight without pain and in severe sprains you may be advised to use crutches to keep the foot off the ground. I stands for ice, where you need to use ice cubes in a plastic bag so it can mold over the ankle and apply this ice pack for about 15 minutes at a time about three times in a day and for at least two days to minimize swelling. C stands for compression. Wrapping the ankle with a sprain bandage for one to two days will help to reduce the swelling, alongside providing support to the affected joint. Do not wrap the elastic bandage too tight, as it will reduce the blood flow to the foot. E stands for elevation. Have the foot elevated on a pillow while lying down, to keep it elevated to the heart level so it will help in decreasing pain and swelling.
After an ankle sprain, it is important that you do exercises to strengthen the ankle so as to prevent re-injury to the affected ligament. Your doctor will prescribe and guide you with physiotherapy exercises depending upon the extent of sprain and muscle stiffness. Here are some of the exercises that are generally recommended.
Gently push your foot forward and backward for 10 times and gradually progress to doing three sets of this. Rotate the foot to drawing a circle. Do this about 10 times. Use a towel or elastic tube to loop around your foot and holding both ends with your hands, gently pull towards your chest so that you feel a stretch at the calf muscle. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat this for about 3 times. Make sure you use an ice pack on the joint after your exercises.
An ankle sprain can recur for many people who have had this in their past. Hence, it is important to try to prevent this recurrence by doing the physiotherapy exercises until the ankle has regained full strength to provide ankle support whenever needed, to wear well-fitting flat footwear while running or jogging, to do adequate warm up exercises before a sports or dance activity.
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