Ankle Injury? Try RICE
With fall sports around the corner, and some of the training already starting, it is time to understand how to manage the ankle sprain. Ankle injuries unfortunately can take an extended period of time to heal. The reasoning behind this is that the ankle holds many small bones (called tarsal bones) in which swelling or fluid can sit in the spaces between these smaller bones. When you have an injury, the body’s natural response is to cushion the area by filling it with fluid—it swells. There is not a lot of room in the ankle for this swelling and thus it puts pressures on structures which our body then perceives as pain. Therefore, the first step to healing is to manage the swelling.
RICE – rest, ice, compression and elevation are essential to control the swelling. It is necessary to rest to allow your tissues that have been irritated during the injury to heal. You should try to rest your body for at least 1 hour 2 times a day. Icing can help to control pain and swelling. You should ice the ankle 3 times a day (especially after exercises). Leave the ice on the ankle for 20 minutes. Using a bag of frozen vegetables that will conform around the ankle is an easy way to provide the benefits of icing. Elevate the limb during icing to further control the swelling. Compression can be done by wrapping the affected ankle in a tight sock, brace or wrapping with an ace bandage. Be sure to apply the ace bandage in a figure “8” wrap. Ask your physical therapist for a demonstration if you are unsure how to do this method. Lastly, elevation is very important to decrease pain and swelling. Elevate your ankle above the level of your heart for at least 30 minutes 3 times a day.
With an ankle injury, it is common to have pain, swelling, popping, and decreased strength and range of motion. However, in order to successfully rehabilitate your ankle, you need hard work, patience, and to listen to your body. See your physical therapist for specific exercises that can improve the range of motion, strength and balance of your leg.
Here is a list of things to consider when you are rehabbing your ankle.
* Any specific exercise that causes pain, especially sharp or knife-like pain, is too much and can slow the healing process. You should modify or discontinue this exercise until you discuss it with your therapist.
* Increased swelling after exercise indicates that the exercise may be too difficult or it is not being done correctly. Be sure to ice the ankle after exercising and use a compression wrap as needed.
* Re-injuries during the rehabilitation process will slow your progress. If you get recurring pain, you either need to lower the resistance; lower the number of sets or repetitions; or reduce the range of motion to avoid the area of pain.
* You may experience some muscle soreness, dull ache, fatigue, or stretching sensations during the healing process. This is normal if the exercises do not increase the pain or swelling.
* When in doubt about how much resistance or weight to use for exercises, guess low. It is safer and easier to add weight than to hurt yourself with too much weight.
* Consult your Physical Therapist if any problems arise or if you have any questions regarding an exercise. It is better to make sure that you are doing an exercise correctly than to cause further injury by doing an exercise incorrectly.