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Ankle Sprains: How to take care of an ankle sprain

Ankle sprains can be very debilitating and inhibiting when it occurs. I would know this because 2 weeks ago I sprained my ankle not once but twice very early on in a 60 km run through the beautiful trails at Wilsons Promontory National Park. A Victorian paradise with endless natural beautiful, crystal clear sea, white sandy beaches and undulating hills with rocky outcrops. I hadn’t anticipated the weather and terrain to be as technical as it was at the beginning of the run. The night before the race there was heavy rainfall which made the trails very muddy. So a combination of mud, rocks and exposed tree roots on narrow tracks didn’t help prevent me from rolling my ankle as I was trying my best to look around me and soak in the beautiful forest cover while moving forward at a reasonable running pace. I should have been looking down at my feet more often…lesson learnt! To cut a long story short I survived and hobble-jogged quite a bit of the way, shortened my race distance to 44 km and finished! Here’s a photo of me looking very silly but happy to be in the middle of a rainforest before I sprained my ankle.

If this had happened at home what would I do? What could you do? This incident motivated me to create a short video to show readers how they can care for an ankle injury. Watch the below short 5 mins video where I demonstrate a little trick on how to apply ice to the ankle and how the ankle should be strapped to help stabilise it after the sprain.

There are 2 types of ankle sprains – inversion and eversion. Inversion injuries are far more common than eversion injuries due to the relative instability of the lateral joint (ankle area away from the centre of body) and weakness of the lateral ligaments compared to the medial ligament (ankle area closest to the midline of body). For ease of discussion I’ll be focusing on inversion ankle injuries as approximately 70-85% of ankle sprains are of the inversion type.

An inversion ankle sprain typically involves injury to one of 3 ligaments (shown in pic below).

Immediately after an ankle injury the area will be weak and unstable because the ligaments are damaged and overstretched and/or torn and will not be able to properly function. The area will swell up and feel warm/hot to touch as the body responds to the trauma. Immediately after the injury you need to apply ice and compression to the area and elevate the foot to reduce the swelling. Applying a cold pack to the area is very beneficial. From my own experience, I applied a cold pack onto my ankle as often as I could in the early stages – at least 3 hours during the day and I also slept with one on at night.

Remember the area is very unstable after the injury so you’ll need to pay attention to preventing it from getting re-injured again and this can be done with taping.

It can take anywhere from 2 – 12 weeks for an ankle sprain to fully heal. Of course, the length of time is dependent on the severity of the injury. If you’re reading this and you’ve gone through multiple ankle sprains in the past and you’re not feeling your ankle is 100% then perhaps it’s time to seek help. Treatment for chronic pain sustained through a long history of ankle sprains could involve all or a combination of therapies such as Foot Mobilisation Techniques, Shockwave Therapy and doing targeted strengthening exercises to improve strength, balance and mobility around the ankle joint.

If you have any questions and are seeking treatment for your ankle pain please drop us an email or call us and we’d more than happy to answer any of your queries.

Personal update: Doing the right thing for my ankle immediately after the event has meant that I was able to continue running and am on track with my training plan for my next running event – a 4 day race along the famous Larapinta trails in Central Australia in August (well known for causing ankle injuries due to it’s very rocky terrain). Wish me luck!!

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