She writes: “A sprained ankle is one of the most common joint injuries, prompting many people to consider it 'just a sprain' and not treat it with the respect it deserves. The too-common consequence of this neglect is a lasting weakness, an unstable joint and repeated sprains. Given that some 25,000 ankle sprains occur each day in the United States, it is worth knowing how they can be prevented and how they should be treated.”
Under treatment means that 30 to 40 percent of people with simple ankle sprains develop chronic long-term joint pathology.
Experts say that after a sprain the ankle should be immediately immobilized to protect the joint and allow the injured ligaments to heal: at least a week for the simplest sprain, 10 to 14 days for a moderate sprain and four to six weeks for more severe sprains.
You can’t simply use pain as a guideline, because often times pains eases up or goes away in cases in which there is still a lot of ligament healing to be done.
Brody writes, “As with other such injuries, the recommended first aid for an ankle sprain, to be started as soon as possible after the injury, goes by the acronym RICE:
R – for rest,
I – for ice,
C – for compression,
E – for elevation.
In other words, get off the foot, wrap it in an Ace-type bandage, raise it higher than the heart and ice it with a cloth-wrapped ice pack applied for 20 minutes once every hour (longer application can cause tissue damage). This should soon be followed by a visit to a doctor, physical therapist or professional trainer, who should prescribe a period of immobilization of the ankle and rehabilitation exercises. An anti-inflammatory drug may be recommended and crutches provided for a few days, especially if the ankle is too painful to bear weight.”
See her article for more details on care and healing: http://tinyurl.com/mhj8oj
Brody writes on health every Tuesday in the NYT’s Science Times section.