When RICE Isn’t Enough for Your Ankle Sprain
RICE therapy is one of the most tried-and-true first aid treatments for acute musculoskeletal injuries, including sprains. The R stands for “rest,” and by that we mean avoiding weight bearing. The other three components—“ice,” “compression,” and “elevation”—further help you deal with the immediate fallout of injury. Ice should be applied 20-30 minutes at a time, three or four times per day. Compression bandages or wraps help keep swelling down and support the injured joints. Elevation, especially above heart level, will also control swelling.
Proper application of RICE immediately after an injury, and though the first few days, can go a long way toward protecting your feet from further damage, relieving pain and swelling, and shortening your recovery time.
But RICE alone isn’t always enough to fully heal your ankle sprain, and it should never be the only action you take. Ankle sprains are serious injuries, with potentially severe consequences for improper treatment. A sprain that never fully heals, or heals improperly, can lead to chronic pain, arthritis, and even instability—the sensation that it’s always about to give way and send you crashing downward. Ligaments that heal poorly are also much more likely to be sprained again, and then again, and again—permanently weakening the joint.
We strongly recommend you schedule a full checkup from a foot specialist like Dr. Foster as soon as possible after you sprain your ankle. We’ll perform a careful, rigorous physical examination, and take an X-ray if necessary. This helps us determine which ligaments are damaged and how badly; it will also determine whether any other injuries, such as an ankle fracture, were sustained.
For mild sprains, you may be able to continue at home with RICE therapy, followed by physical therapy for rehabilitation. However, more serious sprains may require additional treatment. Frequently, the ankle needs to be immobilized temporarily in order to protect the joint as it heals—this might be accomplished via a walking boot or cast and crutches. We also offer therapeutic laser therapy, an advanced treatment that stimulates natural tissue repair and can greatly accelerate the pace of healing. The most serious sprains, or serious ankle instability, may need surgical repair.
Remember that, while RICE is an important component of treatment for most acute injuries, it’s not the whole story. If you’ve sprained your ankle, please get in touch with our office in Lee’s Summit, MO for follow-up examination and care. You can reach us today at (816) 246-4222.