Ankle Sprain Rehab
- 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). A horseshoe shaped felt pad positioned under the wrap makes the compression even more effective.
- As symptoms improve begin gentle bent knee calf stretches and straight knee 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 the injured leg 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. For a program specifically designed to help runners or walkers improve strength, balance and flexibility check out the new DVD The Injured Runner – A Balanced Solution.
A more severe sprain deserves proper evaluation. The Ottawa ankle rule can help you decide whether you need to make a trip to the docs. It was developed and researched at an emergency room in Ottawa, Canada, to select who truly needed an x-ray and who could safely avoid the expense. The guideline is as follows:
- Is it painful to touch the posterior (back) portion of the distal fibula (boney bump on the outside of your ankle - see lateral view) ?
- Is it painful to touch the posterior (back) portion of the distal tibia (boney bump on the inside of your ankle - se medial view) ?
- Are you unable to bear weight at all after injury or unable to walk 4 steps (even if limping)?
X-rays are needed if you answer yes to any of these three questions.