Ankle sprains and running after ankle sprains
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 and how to get back running after ankle sprain injury. Please do remember that a more severe sprain deserves proper evaluation at the doctors!
Is my ankle sprain serious?
Although no bones have been broken, you must take your ankle sprain seriously. It can cause significant problems. Good rehabilitation of your ankle injury is important if you want to return to full strength running after ankle sprain setback.
How to treat your own ankle injury
Use PRICE – the steps below – for three days.
Prevent any further injury to the area. Don’t try and carry on running. If you need to walk a short distance do so – but limit any weight on the area and get a lift back.
Don’t use the ankle. Use your pain as a guide. If it hurts – don’t walk or run on it.
Apply cold packs or ice to the area. Don’t put ice directly onto the skin. Wrap it in a towel or similar. Apply it for 15 minutes every few hours.
Injured tissues swell as fluid builds up and this can cause pain. Let gravity help you! Keep the injury raised if you can.
How long until I can run again after an ankle sprain?
If after a few days there is no swelling and you can walk without difficulty, you might be running again after two weeks.
However, if the pain or swelling is very severe, or you can’t weight bear after a few days, then you will need to be assessed by a medic – in case you’ve broken a bone. If there is no fracture then it’s a case of being patient and working hard on your rehab.
Tips for recovery:
- 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.