A sprained ankle can happen any time. The most common causes are tripping, taking a misstep, running, or walking carelessly, falling off high heels and from shoes that don't fit properly.
What to do when it happens to you? Here are some simple first aid steps
Ankle sprain symptoms
When the ankle is turned to the wrong angle, injuring the surrounding ligaments or tissue, the pain gradient ranges from slight swelling, when the tissues and ligaments aren’t hurt that much, to severe pain when the tissues and tendons are torn, and the ankle is rendered unstable. The symptoms can be divided into three stages.
- Stage 1: The ankle ligament is slightly stretched or torn. There’s only a little swelling. When you put your weight on the ankle, you feel pain from the injured ligament, but you can still walk normally. The swelling and discomfort usually disappear within a couple of weeks.
- Stage 2: The ankle ligament is partly torn, causing quite a lot of pain and swelling. It may not be possible to put the full weight on the ankle and walk. These symptoms usually disappear in four-to-six weeks.
- Stage 3: This is the most intense stage when all the ligaments surrounding the ankle are torn. It probably isn’t possible to put the full weight on the ankle and walk and the ankle joint may feel loose. This condition generally takes six-to-ten months to heal completely. Proper treatment is required to avoid complications.
First aid steps with R.I.C.E.S principles
- R = Rest: Rest the injured ankle. Minimizing use of the ankle and refraining from strenuous activities such as walking with full weight on the injured side or playing sports will prevent further injury to the already injured area.
- I = Ice: Apply ice or cold jelly to the injured area for approximately 15 minutes every two hours within 24-48 hours after injury. This will constrict the blood vessels thereby reducing pain and swelling.
- C = Compression: Wind an elastic band around the ankle to limit movement and reduce swelling and pain.
- E = Elevation: Raise the foot above heart level for better blood flow. When you sit, your injured foot should be raised, and you shouldn’t sit with your legs extended for a long time. When you sleep, use a pillow to support your leg.
- S = Stretch: Once the pain subsides sufficiently and the swelling goes down, exercise the muscles around the ankle, starting gently and working higher. Emphasize stretching as follows:
o Use stretching postures to stretch the Achilles tendon. Stand one step away from a wall. Push the wall with your hands and step the injured leg back with your heel touching the floor. Bend the front knee until the back leg feels tight. Hold this pose for 30 seconds and repeat four-five times.
o Stretch the muscles around the ankle by flexing the ankle on all sides. Start by lying or sitting with your legs parallel to the floor. Flex your ankles towards yourself. In one set twist to the left and in another set twist to the right. Repeat 10-20 times per set. Do two-three sets a day.
o Exercise the small muscles around the ankle. Cultivate balance and nerve coordination by standing on a balance board for two-three minutes at a time. Repeat two-three times a day.
If you get a sprained ankle, follow the above steps to alleviate the initial symptoms. What to do if your symptoms don’t improve after following the first aid steps? Say your ankle is still very swollen, or you feel pain when you put your full weight on it. In this case, your ankle bone may be broken, so you should get a better diagnosis from a doctor at a hospital or clinic.
Fortunately, if we are careful when walking and running, wear shoes that fit our feet and don’t make it difficult to balance, and don’t look at our mobile phone while we’re walking, the likelihood of having an accident causing a sprained ankle is much less than otherwise.
Krungthai-AXA life insurance customers can get more details of KTAXA Health service at https://www.krungthai-axa.co.th/th/HealthServices.
• Siriraj Piyamaharajkarun Hospital
• Faculty of Medicine Ramathibodi Hospital Mahidol University
• Bangkok Hospital
• Bangpakok 9 International Hospital
• Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University