What You Should & Shouldn’t Do After You Sprain Your Ankle
Updated: Sep 8
Ankle sprains are one of, if not the most, common injuries there are. Sometimes people say “I twisted my ankle”, or “I turned my ankle”. No matter what you call it, it can hurt. Chances are, you’ve sprained your ankle at one point in your life. If you’re reading this right now maybe it’s because you’ve sprained your ankle not too long ago. Whether it’s stepping off a curb, missing a step, on a run, on a hike, or any other number of ways, your ankles are always trying to dodge that sprain. Since there’s a good chance you’ll sprain your ankle at some point, the question is what do you do about it when it happens? We’ll try and clear up what you should and shouldn’t do immediately after you sprain your ankle. Our follow up blog will then educate you on what you should be doing once the ankle pain goes away and you can walk normally again.
Should You Get an X Ray?
That’s the first question that should be answered. Most likely, you won’t need to get an X Ray. Swelling and pain are normal after an ankle sprain, even if it is quite severe. Occasionally, an ankle sprain does require an X Ray to rule out a fracture. If you have any of the following you should contact your doctor for an X Ray:
Tenderness on the bones on the outside or inside of your ankle
Can’t walk 4 steps (limping counts as walking)
Tenderness on the inside or outside of the bones of the middle of your foot
If you don’t have any of these, it’s now time to move on to the next step.
Now that you know you don’t need an X Ray, you can start the recovery process. The most common question we get is “should I ice an ankle sprain?” The old advice was to rest, ice, compression and elevation or RICE. Now, we know that ice is not a good idea after an ankle sprain. New research has shown that ice can actually delay the healing process. The doctor who started the term RICE has even come out and said we shouldn’t be icing ankle sprains.
So try to stay away from icing right after your sprain. The best things for swelling are keeping your ankle moving or using a light wrap or ankle sleeve.
What To Do After an Ankle Sprain
Now that you know what not to do, what should you be doing after you sprain your ankle? There are two things that are most important, early mobility and putting weight on it as pain free as you can.
Getting your ankle moving is one of the best things you can do at first. This helps with swelling, pain and also starts the recovery process. The easiest way to start
doing this is to move your ankle up and down, then side to side. You can also draw a circle or draw the ABCs with your big toe. Just make sure you aren’t pushing into pain.
You also want to make sure you are trying to put some weight through your ankle and walking as long as it is not too painful. Using a brace can be very helpful in this case. By using a brace, you are able to put more weight through it without pain. If you are having trouble walking without pain or without a big limp, it is probably a good idea to see a physical therapist or doctor.
Speaking of physical therapy, it is almost always a good idea to schedule at least one session with a physical therapist after your ankle sprain. Even a mild ankle sprain means you stretched or damaged the ligaments or your ankle. It’s also likely that the muscles of your ankle are involved, too. It is very common to have a loss of strength or range of motion for months or even years after ankle sprains. It’s important to at least get 2-3 customized exercises for you so you can make sure you fully recover.
Now you know what to do right after you sprain your ankle. Check out our next blog for what you can be doing long term to get that ankle sprain fully recovered.