Maybe most of us have sprained their ankle at least once. Ankle sprains are common injuries and may happen to each and every one of us. Here we will take a quick look at the nature of ankle sprains and after that will focus on the ways of treating them at home. It is important to know that you should still seek medical help to evaluate the seriousness of the sprain before taking matters into your own hands.
What happens when I sprain my ankle?
The strong, fibrous tissues that connect bone to bone in our bodies are called ligaments. In the ankle, the ligaments keep bones in place and thus the joint stabilized. The two most important ligaments in the ankle (and the ones that usually get strained) are: Anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL): situated on the outside of the ankle, this ligament connects the talus with the fibula. Calcaneal fibular ligament (CFL): this ligament connects the fibula with the calcaneus bone. If you sprain your ankle, this means that one or more ligaments are torn. If the sprain is not very serious, there are only tiny tears in the fibers of the ligaments, but if it is more severe, the tear goes all the way through the tissue. Usually, the anterior talofibular ligament gets injured. This happens when there is an inversion sprain, that is, when the ankle is rolled inward (the most usual situation). When the ankle is rolled outward the sprain is called eversion sprain and pain is felt along the inner side. This is a more serious ankle injury and requires immediate medical evaluation.
What are the causes and symptoms of an ankle sprain?
You can get your ankle sprained even when walking. For example, you may twist your foot if you are walking on an uneven surface and/or when you are wearing high heels. Another cause of ankle sprain is falling down. Last, but not least, the chance that you will get your ankle sprained is increased if you take part in sports that require running and foot-twisting (basketball, football, etc.). You may either change your direction swiftly and thus put your ligaments under too much stress or somebody may step on your foot.
Of course, pain is the first indicator that something is wrong. It could be mild or severe if the ligaments have been completely torn. After the pain a swelling develops, also bruising if there is bleeding under the skin, and sometimes the ankle gets really tender to touch. In more serious cases, when the joint has been dislocated as a result of ligament tissue tear, the ankle may get instable.
Treating your sprained ankle at home
It is important to know that there are degrees of ankle sprain as regards the severity of it. That is, there could be only mild tenderness and swelling if the ligaments have only been slightly stretched, or the injury could be more severe thus requiring more time to heal and proper treatment. In all cases, you will need a physical examination to determine the seriousness of the injury and after that you may proceed with its treatment. Home treatment is usually recommended for milder cases. Let’s take a look at what you can do for yourself at home:
The PRICE protocol
The abbreviation PRICE stands for the following five things that should be done to help you recover when there is case of a mild or moderate ankle sprain:
- Protection – Massaging the area is a big no-no. It is a myth that it helps. It actually makes things worse. What you should do is protect the affected area from further injury by wearing shoes that enclose and support your feet and have padding on the sides.
- Rest – You should stop doing anything that may provide for further complications. Avoid putting any pressure on your ankle, rest in bed for some hours, and when you really need to go somewhere, use crutches or a wheelchair.
- Ice – Ice is used to keep down the swelling. It has a natural anti-inflammatory effect. Make sure to wrap it in a towel or some other piece of cloth and not put it directly on the skin. Do not use it for more than 20 minutes every two or three hours.
- Compression – You should wrap the injured area in a compress in order to prevent any further swelling and immobilize the hurt place. Wrap the bandage snuggly around the ankle but make sure that it is not too tight because that may restrict blood flow and cause additional damage to the area.
- Elevation – Make sure to keep your injured ankle raised and supported on a pillow. That will reduce the swelling and bruising from the sprain.
You should avoid these things for at least three days after an ankle sprain:
- Heat – Don’t take hot baths.
- Alcohol – Alcohol increases swelling.
- Running – Will increase damage. You should be careful even with walking.
- Massage – We already mentioned the myth that massages help.
Anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen can help you control pain and swelling. Makes sure to take them as the doctor has prescribed.
In addition to PRICE, HEAT and taking medication, some sprains require more attention. Using crutches. Everyone has something to do so not walking for three days is not an option. Your doctor may recommend using crutches to move around.
For a moderate sprain, you can use a removable plastic device such as a cast-boot or air stirrup-type brace to immobilize your ankle. Severe sprains may require a short leg cast or cast-brace.
Physical therapy and exercises
Needed in order to prevent stiffness, regain balance and control, increase strength and make sure there is no basis for chronic pain. Here are some example exercises:
- Flexibility and motion exercise: You face the wall, one foot is in front. Then you put your hands on the wall, bend the leg that is in front and keep the other one straight. After that you lean until the muscles are a bit stretched. After ten seconds repeat, switching feet.
- Strength exercise: Tie one of the ends of a rubber tie to an unmovable object and the other end to your forefoot. Sit and carefully pull your foot against the tube, making sure not to move your knee much. Repeat, switching feet.
Natural ingredients for better healing and pain control
This amazing ingredient is a natural pain killer with its anti-inflammatory properties. Use it to eliminate ankle sprain swelling by adding a teaspoon in water or milk and drinking the solution twice a day.
- Epsom salt
Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) is also very effective when it comes to treating sprained ankles because it relaxes the nerves. Pour some of it in slightly warm water, let it dissolve and immerse your foot, letting it rest for about thirty minutes.
- Olive oil
Olive oil also has anti-inflammatory properties. According to anecdotal evidence, mixing a tablespoon of olive oil with egg yolk and applying it onto the affected area (and putting a cotton pad on top) does miracles when it comes to healing.
Onion’s anti-inflammatory properties are said to be not only useful for treating ankle sprains, but also for getting relief from conditions such as arthritis and rheumatism. According to anecdotal evidence, you can chop an onion and apply it onto the affected area, using a compression bandage to hold it in place.
Maintaining muscle strength and flexibility is of vital importance if you wish to prevent ankle sprains. You also have to learn to recognize the signals your body is sending you. Take a break when you feel tired or experience foot pain, slow down if you are going too fast, try to avoid bumping into people when you play sports. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes and avoid uneven surfaces. When an injury does occur, treat your ankle properly and give it time to heal.