If you haven’t already, it’s time to start thinking about fitness. May will be National Physical Fitness and Sports Month—a time to celebrate exercise and raise awareness about the role it plays in healthy lives. Part of fitness, of course, is taking care of injuries. Ankle sprains are one of the most undertreated and misunderstood lower limb problems. A full recovery takes time and careful care as well as some rehabilitation.
Sprains that are not adequately treated can lead to problems later in life. Often those who have been rushed into normal activity following a sprain suffer from chronic pain and inability to walk on uneven surfaces without reinjuring the ankle. Therefore, it is imperative that care is taken not to return to activity too quickly following an ankle sprain.
In our clinic, standard treatment for Grade 1 sprains (those accompanied by some pain and mild swelling) is to put the patient in a brace or a removable cast for up to two weeks before resuming activity. For Grade 2 sprains (swelling, some bruising, and walking is uncomfortable or impossible) and Grade 3 sprains (significant swelling and significant bruising, impossible to walk on) we generally put the patient in a cast with the ankle in a position to allow the ligaments to heal for two weeks and follow that with an ankle brace for about 2 months.
Once adequate healing time has passed, rehab can begin for a sprained ankle. Immediately after you injure yourself, the ligaments that stabilize your ankle are loose and ineffective. Your ankle swells and stiffens, and you may or may not be able to bear weight. Once your ligaments start healing, all of these symptoms have to be addressed to rehabilitate your joint.
First, this means stretching your ankle to restore range of motion and alleviate some of the stiffness you develop after a sprain. You need to be very careful, though. You don’t want to damage your recovering ligaments. Here are some modest stretches to improve your flexibility:
- Flex and Point – Sit with your leg straight out in front of you. Slowly flex your foot as far back as you can and hold for ten seconds, then relax. Slowly point your foot forward as much as you can and hold for ten seconds. Repeat both motions ten times.
- Rotate In and Out – With your foot out in front of you, rotate your ankle down and in, then hold for ten seconds. Slowly flex your ankle and rotate it out as far as you can, then hold for ten seconds. Repeat both rotations ten times.
- Heel Drops – Once your ankle doesn’t have any pain, stand on the edge of a stair step. Slowly lower your heels to stretch your calves.
As ankle stretches improve your range of motion, you need to work on strengthening your joint as well so it regains some stability. Remember, don’t rush your rehabilitation. The better your treatment, the more likely that your ankle will make a full recovery. If you suffer from lateral ankle instability or chronic pain in your ankle, take heart. There are ways to help resolve your condition and reduce the fear of reinjuring your ankle later on in life.Dr. Darren Silvester and the Next Step Foot and Ankle Clinic team in Pleasanton, TX, are more than happy to help you safely regain your ankle strength. Just use the website to make an appointment or call (830) 569-3338 to take care of your sprained ankle today.