How To Sleep With A Sprained Ankle
If you’ve ever had your ankle rolled for an injury, then you know that it’s painful and tricky to put back together again. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to make healing easier and more comfortable. One great way to speed up recovery is by elevating a sprained ankle.
Ankles need to be kept warm and moist — this helps them function normally. However, if the ankle becomes too cold, the blood vessels will constrict, reducing circulation and slowing the process of healing. Elevating the ankle above the heart helps maintain proper temperature levels. It also prevents fluids from collecting in the area, causing edema (swelling). Edema causes discomfort and makes movement difficult.
To elevate an injured ankle, place pillowcases under the bottom edge of a bedsheet and tuck the sheet into a mattress. Use two large pillows to prop up the ankle. If you’re using a hospital-style traction splint, you can simply lay the splint on top of the sheets. The splint should extend beyond the edges of the sheets so that your ankle won’t touch the floor. You’ll want to sleep with the ankle as high as possible while still allowing room for breathing.
While lying down, use pillows or a foot rest to keep your foot and ankle raised. Some people prefer to sleep flat on their stomachs, but this puts pressure on the lower back and interferes with normal spinal alignment. Sleeping diagonally, with one leg extended out, allows your body to relax better.
For best results, wear cotton socks all night long. Wearing synthetic materials can increase heat loss through evaporation, resulting in cooler feet. Heat loss can cause additional swelling because the reduced temperature lowers the amount of moisture in the ankle. Cotton socks absorb sweat and retain moisture. They also wick away perspiration, keeping feet dry and comfortable.
After awakening, try moving around slowly until your ankle feels less tender. Gradually add weight bearing exercises to strengthen the muscles surrounding the ankle joints. For example, walk across the room holding onto furniture or railing supports. Do other activities that require standing and moving about. Don’t overdo these exercises, however, since you don’t want to aggravate the sprain further.
You can also apply ice packs to the ankle during the day. Ice works to reduce inflammation and swelling. Apply ice directly to the skin where the ankle meets the shoe. Or wrap it in a thin towel and hold the pack against the ankle with a bandage. Never immerse a swollen ankle in water unless directed to do so by a doctor. Water can slow the absorption of medication such as anti-inflammatory medications in the ankle.
If you have a severe sprain, see a medical professional immediately. Your physician can prescribe physical therapy and give you instructions for home care. Physical therapists work closely with patients to restore strength and mobility. Their services can be invaluable after an injury.
Read on to find out how to handle other common injuries.
Sprains occur when ligaments become stretched or torn. Ligaments connect bones to each other and serve to stabilize the bones within certain ranges of motion. Injuries to the knee, shoulder or elbow are among those most commonly associated with ligament damage.
Injury to the Ankle
The ankle joint consists of three bones, including the fibula (the smaller bone found on the side opposite the ankle) and both tali (or small rounded bones), which anchor the foot to the lower leg. The ankle has several important functions, including providing stability and support to the legs. Its primary role is to allow walking and running movements.
When ankles are injured, they often suffer sprains, strains, fractures or dislocation. These types of injuries usually involve tearing or stretching of the ligaments, tendons and/or muscles that attach the ankle to the calf and the toes of the foot.
Sprains are the most common type of ankle injury. Most sprains occur when the ankle is twisted beyond its range of motion. As the ankle moves past its natural position, the ligaments stretch and tear.
Strains are another common form of ankle injury. Strains occur when the ligaments supporting the ankle are pulled apart, either suddenly or gradually.
Fractures are broken bones in the ankle. Dislocations occur when the ankle separates completely from the rest of the leg.
Treatment depends upon the severity of the injury. Treatment options include casting, surgery, bracing and physical therapy.
A cast is used to immobilize the injured part of the leg and foot. Immobilization avoids excessive movement and strain. Casts last between four and eight weeks. Doctors consider casts only appropriate for minor injuries; for severe ones, surgery is recommended.
Surgery involves reattaching bones, repairing ligaments and removing fragments of fractured bones. Because of the risk involved, surgical treatment is generally reserved for serious injuries.
Braces are used primarily for correcting misalignment of the ankle and helping it heal properly. Braces come in different sizes and styles. There are braces designed specifically for children and braces worn by adults.
Physical therapists treat patients who have sustained injuries to the ankle. Therapeutic exercise programs are prescribed based on the patient’s specific needs and capabilities.
Exercises performed by physical therapists may vary widely depending on the nature of the injury. Examples include strengthening exercises, stretching routines, balance training and gait retraining.
Physical therapists teach patients how to perform daily tasks safely and effectively. They also provide information about preventing recurrence of the injury.
Most sprains respond well to conservative treatment methods. Resting the injured area and applying ice are the first steps. Afterward, elevation of the injured area is very important. Keeping the ankle clean and dry is essential. Keep aspirin or ibuprofen nearby and take them regularly. Avoid strenuous activity and avoid putting unnecessary stress on the damaged limb.
Wear loose fitting shoes made of leather or canvas. Shoes without rigid soles and heels can help relieve pressure on the ankle and prevent rubbing. Also, wear thick woolen stockings to protect the injured area from friction and abrasion.
Keep the affected area free of dust and dirt. Wash your hands carefully before handling the ankle. Clean any cuts or wounds in the area with antiseptic soap and water. Dry thoroughly with a soft cloth. Take extra precautions to avoid infection, especially if stitches are required. Be sure to follow all directions given by your health care provider.
Learn More About Ankles
An estimated 25 million Americans endure ankle sprains annually. While most injuries result in little or no permanent disability, prolonged immobility can lead to arthritis. Read our article on ankle conditions to learn more.
Swelling caused by bleeding within a bruise or contusion is called hemarthrosis. Severe bruising and swelling may indicate compartment syndrome, a potentially life-threatening condition. Compartment syndrome occurs when increased pressure within a closed space presses against the nerves and restricts blood flow. If left untreated, it may produce excruciating pain, numbness and paralysis. See a doctor immediately.
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