A minor ankle sprain can lead to micro tears in the tissues around the ankle joint, resulting to the discoloration and swelling of the skin. Ankle sprains can likely occur from muscle imbalances in the leg and foot, accidents in which the foot and ankle turn in an unnatural manner and wearing shoes that poorly fit. A sprain can be painful but if the pain is severe, it might be a broken bone. The RICE method stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation. If you will enroll in a first aid course, the RICE method is the traditional way used in treating minor sprains and can be easily done at home.
Steps of the RICE method
- Initially, instruct the individual to take the weight off the affected foot immediately. The individual should sit down and remove the shoe and sock from the injured foot.
- Apply an ice pack over the swollen ankle. Make sure that the ice pack should be wrapped in a clean cloth or towel to protect the skin from direct contact to the ice or you can utilize an instant ice pack. You should apply the ice for 10 minutes and remove it for 5 minutes and then reapply again. This must be done for the initial hour, if possible.
- The affected ankle must be compressed in order to create a boundary so that the swelling will not increase. You can utilize a clean Ace bandage to wrap once around the instep and over the ankle bone and then crossing over the ice pack and on the top of the foot. This must be repeated only 2-3 times and secure the bandage in place.
- The minor ankle sprain must be elevated at least to the level of the hip and slightly higher if possible. The individual can sit in one chair and prop up the affected foot on a pillow placed on a second chair. The ice pack should be replaced as needed to minimize the swelling.
- Instruct the individual to rest for the initial five days and continue to apply ice on daily basis in the morning and at night before going to be. Always keep the foot elevated and compress lightly in an Ace bandage each time.
- Always keep the ankle protected by wearing an ankle brace if it is recommended by the doctor. Take note that some braces are made out of thick elastic while others are thinner, thus can be easily worn when using shoes.
It is best to consult a doctor if the swelling persists every day or if the individual experiences any sharp pain surrounding the ankle joint in the leg or foot. It will take 7-10 days before the individual can fully bear weight on the foot. In case the swollen ankle feels weak, it is recommended to consult a physical therapist so that the ankle can be carefully assessed and specific physical therapy exercises can be started to help regain strength.
Important considerations to bear in mind
In a minor ankle sprain, supination and pronation can occur. During supination, it involves the rolling of the ankle bone in an outward manner. As for pronation, it occurs once the ankle rolls inwards. The doctor can provide information on how to prevent both in order to prevent the development of weak ankles.
Once the individual experiences sharp, shooting pain and could not bear weight on the ankle, it is best to take him/her directly to the emergency department at the nearest hospital to rule out hairline fractures in the bone.