A sprained ankle is one of the most common musculoskeletal injury seen by primary health care providers. It doesn’t matter if you’re a fully-fledged athlete or fully committed to your couch. All it takes is a simple misstep and you have yourself a ticket to weeks of hobbling awkwardly and wincing with discomfort. So many people try to tough it out, but this approach can lead to limping down a long and painful road, with the potential for future complications.
It is important to be aware of what a sprained ankle is, what could have caused it and what you can do to speed up your recovery and get back to whatever you were doing when you sprained it in the first place.
The Anatomy of a Sprained Ankle
A sprain is the overstretching or tearing of a ligament -the tough bands of fibrous tissue that connect two bones together and support your joints
The most common type of ankle sprain is called an eversion sprain. An eversion sprain occurs when you roll on to the outside of your foot, putting undue stress on one or more of the three lateral ligaments that stabilize the ankle joint.
A sprained ankle can present itself in a number of the following ways:
- Pain in the ankle joint when trying to move it or walking
- Inability to put weight on the affected ankle
- Skin discoloration
If the pain is severe. If you can’t walk or it is extremely painful to do so. If the symptoms do not improve after 5-7 days, then its time to call your doctor.
Ankle Sprain Gradings
Ankle sprains have three gradings based on their severity:
- Mild (Grade 1)
- Stretching or slight tearing of the ligament
- Mild tenderness, swelling, and stiffness
- The ankle feels stable and it is usually possible to walk with minimal pain.
- Moderate (Grade 2)
- A more severe sprain, but incomplete tear
- Moderate pain, swelling and bruising.
- The joint is partially unstable and walking is painful.
- Severe (Grade 3)
- This is a complete tear of the affected ligament(s).
- Severe swelling and bruising.
- The ankle is unstable and cannot bear any weight.
Common Causes of a Sprained Ankle
If you’re reading this it’s probably a bit too late to be telling you that the best treatment is to avoid the cause. However, there’s no harm in knowing these common causes of a sprained ankle to help you avoid another one in the near future:
- Exercising: The risk of a sprained ankle is increased when you are moving quickly. Especially on uneven and hard surfaces.
- Falls: When falling down or being knocked down (such as in contact sports like football).
- Inappropriate Footwear: Wearing ill-fitting or incorrect footwear can put your ankles at risk. Sports such as hiking and boxing all have specific footwear designed to support the ankle due to the nature of the activity.
- Poor Posture or Improper Form: Having poor posture or carrying out an activity with improper form can put unnecessary stress on the ankle ligaments, making them more prone to injury
- Existing Injuries: Any old injuries -even an old ankle sprain- might mean that your ankle joint is more susceptible to future strains
- Limited Range of Motion, Stiffness, and Weakness: Health conditions such as arthritis and obesity, aging and living a sedentary lifestyle can all contribute to poor joint health.
- Overuse: Not giving the ligament enough time to repair will make them more susceptible to sprains.
- Nutrition/Diet: Foods that are fried, processed, sugary and high in refined carbohydrates all cause inflammation and can hinder your body’s natural ability to heal itself. A balanced diet and carefully selected supplements will aid recovery and can make you less prone to injury. Carrying excess weight can also put undue stress on your joints.
How to Alleviate Ankle Discomfort and Boost Your Recovery
Now we’ll take a look at some of the best ways to alleviate the discomfort of your sprained ankle and how to speed up the recovery process.
Even after the symptoms have disappeared, spraining your ankle can cause the joint to become more fragile. The following steps can also help strengthen the ankle joint moving forward, reducing the chance of repeat injury.
The R.I.C.E Technique
This is the old fashioned and hugely successful first-aid response to a sprained ankle. It stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation (R.I.C.E). When you implement R.I.C.E in the first 48 hours of spraining your ankle you should be able to shorten your recovery time and alleviate your symptoms.
- Rest: You’ll want to avoid using the muscle and tissues of the injured area as much as possible. I’m not prescribing bed rest for a sprained ankle, but it will be beneficial to take a break from any activities that might aggravate your symptoms.
- Ice: In an ideal world, you want to apply ice to the ankle immediately after the injury. If you do this you might be able to completely stop the swelling. After that, you’ll want to apply an ice pack for 15-20 minutes, every couple of hours during the first 24-48 hours. Ice is one of the best ways to reduce the swelling and discomfort associated with a sprained ankle.
- Compression: Wrapping the affected area in an elastic bandage or using a compression sock can help to reduce the swelling. Be careful not to wrap the ankle too tightly as you might end up hindering blood flow. If you find that the area beneath the bandage begins to feel cold, numb, or tingly then immediately loosen off the bandage. If these symptoms don’t disappear straight away, seek medical assistance.
- Elevation: You’re going to want to raise your ankle above the level of your heart. This will reduce discomfort, swelling, and any throbbing sensations that come with a sprained ankle. It’s as simple as laying down on the couch and propping your leg up on a couple of pillows. You want to try and keep the ankle elevated as long as possible.
Natural Remedies For a Sprained Ankle
Before you head for the over-the-counter medications, there are many natural means to help reduce inflammation, support joint health, and help the body’s ability to repair damaged tissue.
Having a good understanding of what foods to eat and to avoid while also knowing what supplements are the most effective, will not only help you to boost your recovery but can also reduce the risk of injury further on down the line.
When you sprain your ankle the immune system reacts by creating inflammation. And whilst it's a part of the healing response it can trigger a massive amount of discomfort and swelling.
Turmeric contains a compound called curcumin. Among its many researched health benefits, curcumin is said to have anti-inflammatory properties that put it on par with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS).
Simply adding this spice to your cooking probably isn’t going to be enough to reap the full benefits of curcumin as raw turmeric contains about 3% curcumin by weight.
You’ll want to use a turmeric supplement as these contain much higher amounts of bioavailable curcumin.
Recovering from a sprained ankle can be further boosted by withanolides. Withanolides are a group of naturally occurring steroids found in ashwagandha.
A study in 2015 showed ashwagandha was effective to increase muscle mass. Supporting and strengthening the muscles around your ankle is key to facilitating long term function of ankle ligaments.
Great for fighting inflammation and swelling. Because ginger root increases blood circulation it is particularly effective around joints and addressing symptoms of a sprained ankle.
Ginger has an analgesic effect. This means it targets inflammation and can soothe discomfort associated with an ankle injury.
Above and beyond packing a punch full antioxidants tart cherry fruit supports rest and relaxation. As a sprained ankle recovers rest is paramount to the process.
Tart cherry is a good source of melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone responsible for sleepiness. Inflammation can be physically difficult to deal with when it keeps you from good sleep.
A study that evaluated the effectiveness of sleep for injury recovery showed that sleep deprivation reduced protein synthesis. Protein synthesis is critical to recovery as it is your body’s way of communicating how to properly heal.
This nutrient acts as a basic building block, helping to rebuild many parts of your joints, including the ligaments.
Taking 1500mg a day is the recommended dosage. This can either be taken at once or as three separate 500mg doses.
MSM contains sulfur, a mineral required by every cell in your body. It is an essential building block for both joints and bones. Studies also show it can help reduce joint discomfort and swelling.
Vitamin C and Collagen
Vitamin C does a lot more than keep the common cold at bay. It also helps fight inflammation and plays a big part in injury recovery.
Vitamin C is used by the body to form collagen. Collagen is a type of protein fiber found abundantly in your body, and a major component of all connective tissue.
The List Goes On...
Fresh fruits and vegetables. Leafy greens and high-quality sources of lean protein. Foods that are high in zinc and rich in antioxidants. Good quality supplements such as UPGRAID that contain key ingredients that can help reduce the discomfort of a sprained ankle and help protect your joints in the long run.
Adding these to your diet, whilst reducing added sugars, salt, and refined carbohydrates can help keep your body healthy and boost its ability to recover naturally.
Following an Ayurvedic diet is also a great way to make sure that your body gets enough of all of the above so that it can naturally recover from the grind of daily life.
If you’ve sprained your ankle then you know how frustrating it is to be kept away from your favorite activities.
Follow the tips in this blog to treat your sprained ankle and alleviate ongoing discomfort for long-term healing.
Be sure to get yourself the health-fortifying supplement UPGRAID. Daily inflammation, stress, and body aches are a pain. With UPGRAID it does not have to be. Adding this anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative supplement to your daily routine for joint support and recovery.