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How to treat a sprained ankle

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How to Treat a Sprained Ankle

Recognising the Symptoms

A sprained ankle occurs when the ligaments that support the ankle stretch or tear. Symptoms can include pain, swelling, bruising, and difficulty walking. If you suspect a sprain, it’s important to begin treatment immediately to promote healing and prevent further injury.

Initial Treatment: The R.I.C.E Method

The R.I.C.E method is the cornerstone of initial sprained ankle treatment. It stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.

Rest: Avoid putting weight on the injured ankle. Rest is crucial to preventing further damage.

Ice: Apply an ice pack to the ankle for 15-20 minutes every 2-3 hours during the first 48 hours. Ice helps reduce swelling and numb the pain.

Compression: Use an elastic bandage to wrap the ankle snugly. Compression helps limit swelling, but be careful not to wrap it too tightly, as this could impede circulation.

Elevation: Keep the ankle raised above heart level whenever possible. Elevation helps reduce swelling and promotes drainage of fluids from the affected area.

Using Pain Relief Medication

Over-the-counter pain relievers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen can help manage pain and reduce inflammation. Always follow the dosage instructions and consult with a pharmacist or GP if you have any concerns or underlying health conditions.

When to Seek Medical Attention

While many sprains can be effectively managed at home, it’s important to seek medical advice if you experience severe pain, inability to bear weight, significant swelling, or if you suspect a more serious injury like a fracture. A healthcare professional can perform imaging tests and provide a more comprehensive treatment plan, potentially including physical therapy or the use of a brace or crutches.

Rehabilitation and Recovery

After the initial pain and swelling subside, gentle exercises can help restore flexibility, strength, and balance. Simple movements like ankle circles and toe raises can be beneficial. It’s crucial to gradually increase activity levels and avoid rushing the healing process to prevent re-injury. Listening to your body and not pushing through pain is critical during this phase.

Preventing Future Sprains

Strengthening the ankle and improving balance can reduce the risk of future sprains. Wearing supportive footwear, particularly during physical activities, and warming up before exercising can also help. If you’ve suffered multiple sprains, consult a physiotherapist for a tailored exercise program designed to enhance ankle stability.

By following these guidelines and taking appropriate measures, you can effectively treat a sprained ankle and support a full and speedy recovery.

How to Treat a Sprained Ankle

How to Treat a Sprained Ankle

Initial Steps

When you first experience a sprained ankle, it's crucial to stop any activity and rest immediately to prevent further injury. Avoid putting any weight on the affected ankle until you have assessed the severity of the sprain.

The R.I.C.E Method

The R.I.C.E method stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation—a standard first-aid procedure for treating sprained ankles.

  • Rest: Limit movement to prevent worsening the injury
  • Ice: Apply an ice pack to the sprained ankle for 15-20 minutes every one to two hours during the first 48 hours
  • Compression: Use an elastic bandage to wrap the ankle snugly but not too tight to avoid cutting off circulation
  • Elevation: Keep the sprained ankle raised above heart level as much as possible to reduce swelling

Over-the-Counter Medication

Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or paracetamol, can help manage pain and reduce inflammation. Always follow the dosage instructions on the packaging and consult with a healthcare professional if you have any concerns.

Seeking Medical Advice

If the sprain is severe, or if you experience severe pain, inability to move the ankle, or significant bruising and swelling, seek advice from a healthcare professional or visit your nearest NHS walk-in centre or A&E department. A medical professional might recommend physiotherapy or further treatment such as crutches or a brace.

Recovery Tips

Gradually reintroduce movements and weight-bearing activities as the pain and swelling decrease. Gentle exercises to strengthen and improve the flexibility of the ankle can help speed up recovery. Consult a physiotherapist for a personalised rehabilitation plan. Wear supportive footwear and avoid high heels to prevent another sprain.

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