Ankle Sprains

What to do

I am not writing this article as an expert but only from a personal point of view having suffered ankle sprain myself at least six times during my life. These sprains have ranged from merely twisting it to actually tearing the ligament but nevertheless in each case I learned quite a bit about what a sprained ankle is and how to deal with each different case. 

A simple sprain is something that could happen as easily as stepping on a wobbly stone in the road thus making your ankle turn either outwards or inwards. Wearing heels can make this sort of accident more likely to happen but it can also happen with flat shoes. 

When it happens, your ankle will give way and buckle and the next thing you will find is that you are probably on the floor and your ankle is hurting like hell. 

If there is someone with you, try and get them to help you up onto your feet using your good (or rather un-injured foot) to bear all your weight as you stand up, and if someone is not with you call out for help from a passer by. 

As soon as you get home, through whichever means depending on your circumstances, put your foot up, place a towel over it and then and place a bag of frozen peas on top. The reason for the towel is to prevent the frozen bag from burning your skin, as ice can burn as much as heat. 

The treatment for sprained ankles, and this IS recommended by the experts, is RICE which stands for: 





After about fifteen minutes of having the bag of frozen peas on your ankle take it off and have a look at it. If it is swollen this is normal for a sprained ankle, but if you see some bruising this is a sign of something more than just a sprained ankle. Bruising means that the ligament in your ankle may have actually partially or completely torn and there is internal bleeding, hence the bruising. Another sign of a torn ligament is that during the initial fall you will have heard a pop sound as the ligament tears. But I will deal with this more serious case later on. 

So going back to dealing with a normal, mild degree sprained ankle you should now, having seen that there is no bruising, apply Arnica cream to it. Arnica cream is something that every household should have as it is homeopathic and is very effective in soothing bruises, inflammation and pain. If you are in pain you can also take ibuprofen or a glass or red wine - each of which will help in exactly the same way!!! 

Bandage up your ankle as tightly as is comfortable, but never TOO tight and secure it in place with a safety pin, if you don't have bandages an old scarf will do, and keep your ankle elevated . 

If you don't have a crutch at home, because after all many people don't have this item, an umbrella is quite useful as an aid for you to go hopping around your home without having to put weight on your injured ankle or you can also try a broom, placing the actual broom under your arm and the handle on the floor. 

To ease the pain and swelling it also helps to bathe your ankle first in hot water and then followed by cold water. This is best done by placing your foot in the bath and using the telephone shower to apply the different temperatures of water. 

Place a few cushions under your ankle when you go to bed so that your foot remains elevated and you should find that the next day it will already be feeling slightly better although you should continue resting it until the swelling goes down and the pain disappears. 

Once you feel that you have recovered the following rehabilitation exercises should be performed once a day, not only to completely recover from the sprain but also to strengthen your ankle so that this sort of accident doesn't happen to you again. 

1. Draw each letter of the alphabet in the air by moving your ankle and using the big toe as if it were a pencil. It's always a good idea to do whatever exercise you do for the injured ankle to your good ankle as well. This way both ankles will get strengthened. 

2. Stand on a stair ledge with the heel of your foot over the edge and get up onto your tip toes and then slowly lower your heel. Do this ten times for each ankle. 

3. Tie a wide elastic band around both ankles and then move the injured ankle away from the other foot feeling the pressure and then move it back again. Each time try and use more strength and move the foot further and further away. Do this ten times for each ankle. 

Now for the more serious ankle sprain

As mentioned before, a more serious ankle sprain will have involved a partial or complete tearing of the ligament and this really requires a visit to your local hospital. The signs of a serious ankle sprain are the following: 

  • There is usually a popping sound to be heard as the ligament tears.

  • The swelling is quite considerable.

  • There is bruising

  • The pain is excruciating

  • and finally there is no way at all that one can place any weight on the ankle in question 

At the hospital they will first take an x-ray to make sure that no actual bones are broken and then the traumatologist will examine the ankle. If he confirms that you have a torn ligament you will either have your ankle placed in 'plaster of paris' by one of the nurses or, as is more often the case nowadays, be given a velcro boot which also keeps the ankle secure. 

A torn ligament usually requires to be immobilized for at least three weeks and then once the 'plaster of paris' comes off (or the boot) another three weeks of walking with crutches and some gentle rehabilitation exercises. 

During the three weeks that you and your ankle have to remain as immobilized as possible you will probably be given an injection a day into the muscle of your stomach, rear or thigh, and this is to safeguard against any blood clots which could occur due to not moving. 

You will be given crutches but try not to move around too much. It is a good idea to wear a belt around your waist to which you can attach a plastic shopping bag and in this way if you need to fetch something you can pop it into the plastic shopping bag so leaving both your arms free to deal with the crutches. 

Having a bath can be a bit complicated as you must not wet your foot or leg but you can place the whole of your leg in a plastic rubbish bin liner and then secure it at the knee with some tape or an elastic band. This will keep it dry against any splashes. 

Don't fill up your bath tub as much as you usually do. Sit on the edge and swing your good leg into the bath. Then while holding onto the bath tub side grips lower yourself into the bath while keeping the affected leg raised and if possible resting on the edge of the bath. 

To get out is more or less the whole procedure again but in reverse. Hold on to the side grips and raise yourself up onto your good leg, sit on the side of the bath and then swing both legs outwards. 

Once you are over the whole ordeal and waking properly again, it would be wise to take note of the following tips: 

  • Try and keep your ankles strong by continuously keeping up the exercises in order to avoid this from happening again.

  • When walking in the countryside, which is full of uneven ground, try and wear a pair of shoes or booties which reach up to your ankle and have lace ups in order to keep your ankle steady and secure.

  • Although very high heels are never advisable, a normal heel is okay and even helps in exercising your ankles as while wearing them one has to make a concentrated effort to keep the ankles straight and steady. A court shoe with a heel of about 5 cm is quite okay.

  • A shoe though that should never be allowed is called a 'sling back'. This is because the back of the foot is only supported by a thin strap which could easily allow the foot to slip sideways away from the instep of the shoe thus provoking an ankle strain again.

  • Keep your weight under check as being overweight can cause an extra burden to your ankles. 

And finally I hope that these tips will have helped a few!