High Ankle Sprain Healing Time
Sprained ankles can be a nightmare when you’re an athlete. You want to get back in the game and get your groove back as soon as possible. But there’s a big difference between returning from a sprained ankle, and healing from one.
The healing process is just as important to consider as getting back on your feet as quickly as possible. And it takes place over several stages. Depending upon how severe your injury, some of those stages may take longer than others. The key to success with healing is to keep yourself informed on what to expect and how long it should take. It’s also critical that you follow through with treatments like icing, heat or elevation correctly, so that you prevent further damage while promoting faster healing.
First things first — if you have a high-ankle sprain, you’ll need to elevate your foot above its normal position (which means keeping it off the ground). If necessary, use pillows for this purpose. In addition, ice the area around the ankle. This helps reduce swelling and bruising. Afterward, apply an elastic bandage wrap around the injured ankle and foot. This not only supports the ankle, but also provides extra traction to help stabilize the joint.
Second, don’t run or walk without crutches until your doctor gives you clearance. Your doctor will give you a specific amount of time to recover before moving back into athletic activities. For most patients, six weeks after the injury is the absolute earliest they can begin rehabilitation exercises, which include walking and running.
Third, make sure you wear supportive shoes. Look for shoes made specifically for athletes with stability and shock absorbing qualities. Shoes designed for general purposes won’t provide enough support for your sprained ankle. Also, make sure to buy a pair of “running” shoes instead of sneakers because these offer more stability. Running shoes are typically stiffer and have special cushions under the ball of the foot and heel. They also have wider soles that increase your stride length. These shoes allow you to absorb shocks and impact better.
Fourth, try to avoid putting too much weight on the affected leg during the first few days. Elevate the foot higher than usual, and rest the ankle at night. Consider using a wheelchair to move around for the first two days after your injury. Take frequent breaks to stretch the calf muscles.
Fifth, try to remain active and mobile. Wiggle toes, wiggles fingers, play catch with a tennis ball or do stretches. Keep moving your ankle joints. Flexion movements are good for both strengthening and stretching the ankle and calf muscle groups. Avoid bending the knee toward the chest, however, because this can put additional stress on the ligaments surrounding the ankle.
Sixth, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. Dehydration can cause pain and stiffness, so drink water throughout the day. Stay away from alcohol and caffeine, since they dehydrate you even more.
Seventh, avoid smoking and excessive consumption of aspirin. Smoking irritates the skin and reduces blood flow; aspirin can slow down the clotting of blood, thus prolonging bleeding.
Eighth, exercise regularly to strengthen your muscles and tendons. Make sure to warm up properly and cool down afterward. A 30-minute workout three times a week will be beneficial.
Ninth, visit a physical therapist who specializes in treating sprains. He or she can help teach you proper form for rehabbing the ankle.
Tenth, continue physical therapy for at least four to eight weeks. During this period, you’ll work on improving strength, coordination and flexibility. You’ll also learn correct technique for performing everyday tasks such as taking stairs, opening doors and tying shoelaces.
Most importantly, remember to listen to your body. Be aware of any unusual signs, sensations or feelings. Call your physician immediately if you experience tingling, numbness, burning, weakness, pins and needles sensation, sharp pains, red streaks radiating out from the ankle and/or calf soreness.
If you suffer a high-ankle sprain, here are some tips to help you heal fast:
Ice the area every hour – Apply ice directly to the skin, never wrapped in a towel. Ice works best when applied 20 minutes prior to activity
Keep the ankle elevated – Use a pillow to prop the foot slightly higher than its natural resting point
Avoid non-stabilized shoes – Don’t wear flip flops, sandals or other types of loose shoe that could shift in the wrong direction
Wear an elastic bandage – Wrap an elastic bandage snugly around the ankle and foot, securing it with tape. Try to find an elastic bandage that has a hook and loop closure to minimize slipping or loosening.
Try to avoid putting weight on the ankle – For the first couple of days, avoid going anywhere where you might encounter uneven surfaces or steps. Walk carefully with someone holding onto your arm.
Take short walks – If you can stand, start walking slowly and limit your distance to no more than 10 yards. To avoid putting unnecessary pressure on the ankle, bend the unaffected leg forward slightly as you go along. Hold onto something sturdy for balance.
Don’t smoke – Smoking slows blood circulation and thins the blood. Blood thinners can slow blood clotting, making the risk of deep vein thrombosis greater.
Drink lots of fluids – Drink 8 glasses of fluid per day, especially water or other clear liquids. Drinking less than 3 quarts of liquid daily puts you at risk of dehydration. Aspirin causes dry mouth and thirst. When you feel thirsty, have a glass of water rather than aspirin.
Exercise regularly – Exercise increases oxygen levels in your blood, helping to remove waste products that cause inflammation. Regular exercise also strengthens your heart, lungs, legs, and arms.
See a physical therapist – Physical therapists are experts in restoring function and relieving pain following injuries and surgeries. They can recommend exercises you can perform at home, and can also teach you to safely perform certain activities.
For many people, a high-ankle sprain doesn’t require surgery. However, if your condition worsens, consult your healthcare professional right away to determine whether surgical intervention is appropriate. Surgery is usually performed if the instability of the ankle continues despite conservative treatment. Surgical procedures used to treat unstable ankles include:
Arthroscopy – Arthroscopic procedures are minimally invasive techniques in which small incisions are made in the ankle and the interior structures are viewed via tiny cameras inserted through those small openings. Surgeons can repair torn cartilage and meniscus tissue, clean debris and bone chips, and remove loose bodies.
Ligament Reconstruction – Ligament reconstruction involves surgically reattaching torn ligaments. Ligament reconstructive surgery may be done arthroscopically or as open surgery.
Fracture Treatment – Open reduction and internal fixation methods involve placing screws or metal rods into the bones of the lower leg and foot to hold them together.
Recovery time depends on the severity of the injury, the type of treatment received and the individual patient. Most high-ankle sprains respond well to rest, ice, compression stockings, elevations and anti-inflammatory medications. If untreated, high-ankle sprains often become chronic problems that require prolonged periods of rest, limited mobility, and extended rehabilitation.
The bottom line? High-ankle sprains are painful, frustrating, and difficult to deal with. However, with adequate care and attention, you can make full recovery and resume playing your sport sooner than later!
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