When it comes to musculoskeletal injuries ankle sprains rank at the top. Ankle sprains are one of the leading causes of ankle injuries that land more than 1 million Americans in emergency rooms each year. In the United States, about 25,000 people sprain their ankle on any given day.
Chances are you or someone you know has suffered an ankle sprain at one time or another. The injury can be quite painful, but for many people who enjoy an active lifestyle, the worst part may be the taking-it-easy part. While you’re doing all the things your doctor ordered, like keeping weight off your foot or elevating it, all you can think about are the things you’re missing.
Maybe your family planned a vacation and you were looking forward to walking around and doing some exploring. Or perhaps you just want to chase after your grandkids. Is it really all that important to rest when you have a sprained ankle? Dr. Jarna Rathod-Bhatt and Dr. Rahul Bhatt, our skilled podiatrists at Apple Podiatry Group answer with a resounding, “Yes!”
Ankle sprains explained
Let’s start this conversation with a primer of the mechanics of an ankle sprain. When you sprain your ankle, there’s typically some twisting or missteps that happen. Maybe you trip and fall or miss the curb when you’re walking from the sidewalk to the street and twist your ankle, or perhaps you’re playing a sport and your foot lands wrong when jumping or running.
Regardless of the scenario, the result is injury to the part of the ankle that typically provides stability – the ligaments. A sprain means you overstretched or tore one or more ankle ligaments.
When your ankle is in tip-top shape, the ligaments help hold the joint together by binding one bone to the other. The ligaments’ most important role in the ankle joint is to ensure stability by preventing too much side-to-side motion.
Many ankle sprains happen when your foot rolls outward, overstretching the outer ligaments. The ankle is often tender to the touch and is swollen and perhaps bruised. Walking, or even standing, can be challenging. That’s almost a good thing because it reminds you that you should be resting your foot.
All that said, here’s why rest is important for a sprained ankle.
Rest prevents further injury to your ankle
If you sprain your ankle, initially we’ll recommend RICE – rest, ice, compression, and elevation. The reason? In its injured state, your ankle is already unstable. Loading weight on your foot or hobbling through the injury instead of resting increases the chances that you’ll further injure the ligaments.
It may be difficult to resist the temptation of trying to push through the injury, but resting will actually keep a minor sprain from turning into a more serious one.
Rest helps your ankle heal faster and more completely
If you protect your sprained ankle from further injury, you’ll actually heal faster and more completely. Whether taking weight off your foot by elevating it or using crutches or wrapping it to immobilize it, that lack of pressure provides time for your ankle to begin to heal. When you don’t allow your body’s natural healing process to take place, it can lengthen your recovery time.
Rest reduces your risk for chronic pain and ankle instability
Taking rest seriously when you have a sprained ankle may also reduce your risk for chronic pain, instability, and range-of-motion issues. When torn ligaments don’t heal properly, they may fuse together creating hard, inflexible scar tissue, which can make walking difficult.
Poorly healed ligaments not only can lead to difficulty in functional movement, but also chronic ankle instability and inflammation that makes future injuries more likely.
If you’ve suffered an ankle sprain, contact our foot and ankle experts at Apple Podiatry Group. Our highly trained doctors can provide an ankle sprain treatment plan to get you on the road to a full recovery.
Book an appointment while you’re online now. Or, give one of our Apple Podiatry Group offices in Arlington or Irving, Texas, a call to schedule your appointment.