Ankle sprains are a risk of running and happen to most people over the course of their running career – many people more than once. Here are some tips for gentle sprains. Please remember that a more severe sprain deserves proper evaluation at the doctors!
- If you are limping when you walk consider using crutches until you no longer limp. Yes, crutches are a nuisance, but using them for just a few days can dramatically improve your recovery time. Try to walk with a normal pattern using the crutches to reduce weight on the ankle instead of keeping your foot off of the ground.
- Instead of running or walking, cycle for a few days. Cycling will help get your ankle moving during the painful period and also provides some mental therapy. Limit your running or walking distance to what you can do without limping. If you want to exercise more, supplement your program with cross training i.e. water running, cycling or an elliptical trainer.
- Ice applications help stop the inflammatory process. Wrap a flexible ice pack around your ankle for fifteen minutes with your ankle elevated (above your heart). Repeat two to four times per day and continue until the swelling is substantially improved.
- Compression helps to reduce the swelling (which will slow your recovery). Use a two inch elastic wrap to firmly wrap your ankle (not so tight that you restrict blood flow).
- As symptoms improve begin gentle calf stretches. Limitation of motion in this direction is the most common complication following an ankle sprain. Make sure you stick with these stretches until both ankles are able to bend the same amount. You shouldn’t run until this motion is equal.
- A sprain can substantially alter your balance and lead to future injuries or re-injury. Balance training can be as simple as practicing standing on just the injured leg and letting your ankle keep you stable. When you’ve mastered that, try doing the same thing with your eyes closed.
- For a more advanced approach you can purchase a balance board and toss a ball against a wall while standing on it.