Nationally Accredited First Aid Courses

First Aid for a Sprained Ankle

Sprained Ankle

Table of Contents

If you are an active person who likes to get physical with martial arts, play active sports, or even just walk the dog in the park every day, there’s a good chance you may have suffered a sprained ankle at some point in your life. You might even have tripped over that invisible step everyone seems to encounter randomly while walking in public.

Among all the soft tissue injuries you can suffer to the lower limbs, sprained ankles are among the most frustrating (speaking from personal experience). So what exactly happens when you sprain your ankle?

Types of sprained ankle

There are three types of ankle sprains based on how much ligament damage has occurred.

  • Grade 1 (Mild) – The ligament fibres are stretched slightly, or there is a very small tear.
  • Grade 2 (Moderate) – The ligament is torn, but it isn’t a complete tear.
  • Grade 3 (Severe) – The ligament is torn completely.

Ligaments are bands of stretchy, elastic-like tissue that connect one bone to another and hold your joints in place. A sprain is an injury to a ligament caused when the fibres of the ligament tear or rupture. The ligament can be strained, partially torn, or completely torn in two. The last of those possibilities requires surgical intervention to help repair the damaged tissue.

Other common sprains

Ankle sprains are the most common type of sprain, but they are not the only type. Wrist, knee, elbow, shoulder, and thumb sprains are also common for people who play sports.

Sprained ligaments will often swell rapidly, bruise heavily and are extremely painful, more so than a broken bone in some cases. Generally, the greater the pain and swelling, the more severely torn or ruptured the ligament. For all sprains, you can start initial injury treatment yourself prior to presenting at your G.P. or emergency room for assessment and X-rays to rule out fractures where required.

Strains and sprains are covered in some detail in most first aid courses, so people with a first-aid certificate should generally be your first port of call when someone’s suffered a sprained ankle or similar injury. If you’re involved in any kind of sport or active lifestyle – or you just like to be prepared – it’s worth investing a day in doing first aid training yourself. There’s generally a training venue in your local area, and it generally costs less than a tank of petrol does nowadays.

How To Apply First Aid On Your Ankle Sprain

To treat a sprained ankle, you need to apply R.I.C.E. And no, that’s not going to require a rice cooker. R.I.C.E. is an acronym reminding you of the steps to take when treating a strain or sprain. The steps are:

Rest the injured limb

Your doctor may recommend not putting any weight on the injured area for 48 to 72 hours, so you may need to hire or purchase crutches. A splint or brace also may be helpful initially and, as the weeks pass, offers stability while the ligament repairs. After the first week, return to your normal routine activity using common sense if the ankle sprain is only mild or moderate.

Ice the injured area

Use a cold pack, a slush bath or a compression sleeve filled with cold water to help limit the swelling. Try to ice the area as soon as possible after the injury occurs and apply the cold compress treatment for 15- 20 minutes. Ideally, four to eight times a day for the first 48 hours or until the swelling reduces. If you use ice, never apply it directly to the skin and carefully monitor – particularly around the twelve-minute mark – to prevent damage to the tissue around the injury.

Apply Compression to the injury

Compress the area firmly but not tightly with an elastic wrap or bandage. Compressive wraps or sleeves made from elastic or neoprene are the best option and are easily removed, reapplied, washable, and reusable multiple times – these are a must-have item for any decent first aid kit! If such a thing isn’t available, you may have to make do with a firmly wrapped bandage.

Elevate the injured limb

Elevate the limb above the level of your heart whenever possible to direct blood away from the injury and help limit swelling.

It’s worth knowing that the R.I.C.E. process is in the process of being reviewed by medical professionals to see if there’s a better alternative – such as the M.E.A.T protocol . One advantage of having up to date first aid training is knowing that your first aid knowledge is as close to current as you can get.

Can you still exercise with an ankle sprain?

Even with an ankle sprain, you can still exercise other limbs and muscles to minimise deconditioning (where your muscles grow weak from never being used). Stationary bike exercise is a great way to still get exercise while you have a sprained ankle and keep up your cardiovascular training and conditioning for the gym junkies.

How long does it take to recover from a sprained ankle?

Ankle sprains can take days or months to recover from, depending on the severity. As the pain and swelling improve, you should feel a gradual, progressive improvement. Over-the-counter pain medications, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, may be helpful in managing minor pain during the healing process. Surgical intervention will require prescription medications for pain relief post-surgery but should not be necessary for most individuals after two weeks at the most.

Getting medical assistance

Medical Assistance for a SprainKeeping flexibility and restoring strength and stability to the injured limb prior to returning to your pre-injury sports or fitness activity levels is essential. A physical therapist or other sports medicine provider can provide you with the appropriate strength and stability exercises to optimise healing and offer solutions to minimise the risk of a repeat injury. Once the sprain has occurred, the area will always be weaker and therefore prone to a secondary injury if the process of rebuilding strength and stability is rushed or ignored.

Any injuries that cause sprains can also cause fractures. See your doctor if your sprain isn’t improving after two days. Seek emergency medical assistance if you are unable to bear weight on the injured leg, the joint feels unstable or numb, or you can’t use the joint. This may mean the ligament was completely torn and will require surgical intervention, or a fracture has occurred in either the ankle itself, the tibia or the fibula at the point where they meet the ankle. On the way to the emergency room, apply a cold pack and elevate the injured limb higher than the heart if possible. Watch and treat for shock where fractures or grade three sprains have occurred.

If you don’t know how to identify or treat for shock, it might be a good time to enrol yourself into a first aid course.

Popular Posts
Recent Posts