Why Rest Is Important for a Sprained Ankle

Between the pain of the injury and the inconvenience of reduced mobility, spraining your ankle once is enough to make you wary of spraining it again. However, without the right rest and care, a poorly healed ankle can lead to chronic instability that can cause repeated ankle sprains again and again. 

Here at Foot and Ankle Care of Passaic in Lodi, New Jersey, Dr. Sean Rosenblum is dedicated to helping you heal fully from your sprain in order to prevent future sprains and joint instability. He shares why rest is so important in preventing future complications after a sprain. 

What causes ankle sprains? 

Your ankle joint is made up of various bones held in place by ligaments. These ligaments are strong, stretchy bands that hold your bones together and stabilize your joint during movement. 

When your ligaments are overextended beyond their limits, this can cause an ankle sprain. Small tears in your ligaments cause minor sprains, but if your ligament tears completely, this causes a severe sprain. 

What is chronic instability?

Whether your case is minor or severe, any type of sprain can weaken your joint. Severe sprains, as well as minor sprains that heal poorly, can lead to chronic ankle instability. 

This loss of stability means that your weakened ligament is more likely to be overstretched again. This creates a frustrating cycle of repeated injuries and poor healing. 

Chronic instability can damage the cartilage and bones in your ankle and even cause arthritis. That’s why it’s so important to make sure your ankle heals fully after your first sprain. 

Follow the RICE protocol ASAP

No matter the severity of your sprain, it’s important to start the RICE protocol as soon as possible. 

Rest

Resting your ankle after a sprain is incredibly important. Your ankle normally supports much of your body weight, so after an injury it’s important to take it easy. 

Ice

Ankle sprains often cause a lot of swelling, which is why an ice pack can help. We recommend using an ice pack three times a day, up to 20 minutes at a time, for the first few days after your sprain. 

Compression

After a sprain, your ankle might need some extra support. Compressing the area with an elastic bandage wrapped around your ankle can keep swelling down while also stabilizing the joint.  

Elevation

Keep your ankle raised above the level of your heart whenever possible in order to reduce swelling and inflammation. For example, if you’re resting in bed, use a few pillows to lift your ankle up. 

When to seek help for your sprained ankle

While minor ankle sprains can be treated at home, it’s important to call us if you can’t put weight on your ankle, if you can’t walk, if the pain is severe, or if the swelling lasts longer than a few days. 

The most common way chronic ankle stability develops is by returning to normal activities too soon after an injury, before the ligament fully recovers. 

Usually, we recommend keeping weight off your ankle for 7-10 days. If your sprain is more severe, we may suggest a boot or cast to support your ankle as it heals.

Rehabilitation 

Recovering through rest and gradual rehabilitation is the best way to heal your ligament fully. It often takes up to six weeks for even minor ligament tears to heal. 

Once your swelling and pain improve, we may recommend a rehabilitation or physical therapy program that includes range-of-motion and strengthening exercises. 

Regardless of the level of your sprain, rest is a critical part of the healing process

If you’ve recently sprained your ankle, call our office or book an appointment online to prevent chronic ankle instability in the future. 

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