It’s all too easy to strain or sprain an ankle, especially if you play a sport or run on uneven ground. In fact, there are probably very few athletes who haven’t experienced the pain and frustration that go along with an ankle injury at least once. However, there are a few steps you can take to ensure that your ankle heals properly and you’re not out of commission for too long:
- Don’t Wait Too Long
If you think your injury is only a mild strain (meaning that the muscles are sore, but the ligaments surrounding the joint are uninjured), then you can wait a day or two and follow RICE protocols: rest, ice, compression and elevation. You can also take recommended doses of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen. But don’t try to self-treat for too long.
- Visit a Foot and Ankle Doctor
If the pain and swelling in your ankle don’t quickly subside, you need to find a podiatrist right away. A podiatrist, or foot and ankle doctor, specializes in only this area of the body. He or she will examine your ankle, ask you questions and perhaps take X-rays of the affected area.
- Follow Ankle Injury Treatment Protocols
Ankle sprain treatment will obviously differ from treatment for fractures and other types of injury affecting the bone. This is why it’s important to get a professional diagnosis instead of trying to self-treat. No matter what, you should follow the instructions of your podiatrist — even if that means staying off your feet for a while (often a tall order for active people).
- Re-Strengthen Your Ankle
It’s important once you’ve completed the necessary treatment and rest period that you slowly work back up to physical activity. Otherwise, you’re likely to get hurt again. There are many exercises that can help you in your ankle injury rehab; your podiatrist may suggest some or send you to a physical therapist, if your injury is severe. If your injury is so mild that your doctor doesn’t require physical therapy, you can set some exercises for yourself: It’s a good idea to start with simple pointing and flexing exercises, using a resistance band to build up strength, before moving on to standing exercises like calf raises.
- Plan to Prevent Future Injuries
Do what you can to prevent such an injury from happening again. If it was simply an accident, there’s not much you can do. But you can fix other factors by wearing more supportive shoes during physical activity, strengthening the small muscles in your feet and ankles and assessing your biomechanics or stride.
How long after an injury do you wait to visit a foot and ankle doctor? Share in the comments.