We have all sprained our ankles at some point in our lives. Planting your feet carelessly on uneven surfaces or applying excess pressure on your ankles due to vigorous activity can cause you to sprain your ankle.
A sprain in your ankle can hinder your daily activities. Simple tasks like casual walking become painful. This can make you miserable, especially if you are slated to go on a trekking trip or have an event coming up.
In this article, we will share simple tips and tricks to treat a sprained ankle at home.
What Is A Sprained Ankle?
You may sprain your ankle when you accidentally turn your foot or twist it awkwardly. Typically, in an ankle sprain, you injure the ligaments that connect the bones in your legs to your feet.
It is essential to know that ligaments have a specific range of motion. Stretching the ligaments beyond this boundary results in a sprain. Ligaments are tissues that help stabilize the joints. Hence, you must make sure not to exert your joints or apply too much pressure. When you sprain your ankle, you usually injure the ligaments on the outer edge of your ankle.
If the sprain does not heal after a day or two, you must consult your doctor. Depending on its severity, it can take a few days to a couple of months to heal completely.
We will now explore the causes of a sprained ankle.
What Causes A Sprained Ankle?
- Sudden and unexpected pressure applied on your ankles while standing, running, or any physical activity.
- Placing your feet on irregular surfaces.
- Swelling as a result of stress on the ligament.
Ankle sprains can occur at any age. Hence, youmust wear appropriate footwear while taking part in physical activities, such as fitness training, sports, etc. The following factors increase your risk of a sprained ankle.
Risk Factors Of A Sprained Ankle
- Rigorous Sports Activities: Sports that involve exertion and continuous movement are likely to cause a sprained ankle.
- Walking On Uneven Surfaces: Continuous walking on uneven surfaces can cause an ankle sprain.
- History Of An Ankle Injury: A history of injury to your ankle can increase the risk of an ankle sprain.
- Improper Footwear: Ill-fitting or improper footwear can make you susceptible to an ankle sprain.
Depending on the severity of the sprain, symptoms can vary. These include the following.
Symptoms Of A Sprained Ankle
- The affected foot will hurt, especially when you bear weight on it.
- The ankle may be sensitive to touch.
- Inflammation around your ankle.
- Restricted motion.
- The ankle may be unstable and cause imbalance while standing up.
How To Diagnose A Sprained Ankle
If you consult your doctor for a sprained ankle, they will perform a physical exam. This will help them understand whether there is a ligament tear or not.
They will also check for the range of motion of your ankle.
You may be asked to go for either an X-ray or MRI to rule out a fracture.
Depending on the severity of the sprain, your doctor may suggest any of the following options.
- If it is a mild case, your doctor will suggest placing an ice pack on the swelling.
- The doctor may prescribe over-the-counter medicines to help reduce pain and swelling.
- If the sprain is slightly more serious, the doctor may put a brace around your ankle. This will prevent excessive motion in your feet and aid healing.
We will now take a look at how you can treat a sprained ankle at home.
Natural Ways To Treat Sprained Ankle
RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.
RICE is one of the first treatments suggested for an ankle sprain (1). It is a reasonably simple self-care method that can help reduce the pain and swelling (if any) associated with an ankle sprain.
Step 1: Rest
The first step to recovery is to take as much rest as you can. Avoid straining the ankle for the first two days. Resting the foot can help prevent aggravating the sprain.
Step 2: Ice
Icing the ankle helps in reducing the pain and swelling in your foot (2), (3). For this, you will need about 8-10 ice cubes or an ice pack. Apply the ice pack for 15-20 minutes on your ankle. Repeat this every 2-3 hours for the first two days to obtain the best results.
Step 3: Compression
This step involves wrapping a bandage around your ankle. Tie an elastic bandage tightly enough to support your ankle but not so tight that it slows blood flow to your ankle (4), (5). This will help provide support to your ankle and prevent excessive movement of your foot.
Step 4: Elevation
In this step, you have to raise the affected part above the level of your heart. This is done to help reduce swelling and pain (6). Keep your foot on a cushion and keep it elevated for a while.
2. Essential Oils
(a) Lavender Oil
Lavender oil has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties (7). This can help in reducing the swelling and pain in the sprained ankle.
You Will Need
- A sterile cotton ball or gauze
- 2-3 drops of lavender oil
What You Have To Do
- Mix two to three drops of lavender oil with a few drops of a carrier oil (like coconut oil) in a bowl.
- Apply this mixture to the ankle and massage gently for about 15-20 minutes.
How Often Should You Do This
You can do this 2-3 times daily.
(b) Chamomile Oil
You Will Need
2-3 drops of chamomile oil
What You Have To Do
- Take 2-3 drops of chamomile oil and mix it with a carrier oil like coconut oil.
- Apply this to your ankle and massage gently for about 15-20 minutes.
How Often Should You Do This
You can repeat this remedy 2-3 times daily.
Another way to treat an ankle sprain at home is to do a few basic exercises. These include:
(a) Range Of Motion: In this set of exercises (e.g., ankle alphabet), you will be able to increase the range of movement of your ankle gradually.
(b) Stretching: Stretching exercises (e.g., towel stretches) can help increase the extent to which your ankle can support a stretching action.
(c) Strengthening: Strengthen your ankle and the muscles around it after you have gained a better range of movement. You could use resistance bands for this.
(d) Balance And Control: Once you have regained your strength, it is time to build stability and control. For this, you will have to try to stand on your injured foot for 30 seconds at a time. Slowly, as you get better, you can increase the time to 1 minute at a time.
These were the ways in which you can treat a sprained ankle at home. We will now look at how you can prevent an ankle sprain.
How Can I Prevent An Ankle Sprain?
- Do exercises that strengthen your ankles.
- Wear ankle support while working out or performing rigorous activities.
- Avoid wearing heels.
- Tread uneven surface carefully.
These are a few helpful and effective methods to take care of your sprained ankle at home. But be mindful of the severity of the injury. Please consult your doctor if the symptoms persist for longer than 2-3 days or if there is significant swelling in your ankle.
Have you ever sprained your ankle? What did you do to deal with it? Share your experience with us in the comments section below.
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
When can I seek medical care?
If your symptoms last longer than 2-3 days, and if the swelling in your ankle does not reduce, you must seek medical help.
How do I wrap my ankle?
You can wrap your ankle with a brace or an over-the-counter elastic bandage that will help restrict excessive motion.
How long does it take for a sprained ankle to heal?
A mild case of sprain takes about 5-10 days to heal entirely while more severe cases may take 4-6 weeks to heal.
- What Is the Evidence for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation Therapy in the Treatment of Ankle Sprains in Adults? Journal of Athletic Training, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Comparing the antiswelling and analgesic effects of three different ice pack therapy durations: a randomized controlled trial on cases with soft tissue injuries. The Journal of Nursing Research, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- The use of ice in the treatment of acute soft-tissue injury: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- The role of compression in the management of soft tissue ankle injuries: a systematic review. European Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery and Traumatology, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Management of ankle sprains: a randomised controlled trial of the treatment of inversion injuries using an elastic support bandage or an Aircast ankle brace. British Journal of Sports Medicine, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Acute Ankle Sprain. StatPearls, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties of the leaf extracts and essential oil of Lavandula angustifolia Mill. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, ScienceDirect.
- Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future. Molecular Medicine Reports, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Analgesic Potential of Essential Oils. MDPI, ResearchGate.