Regardless of which term you use, a sprained foot and a sprained ankle are essentially the same injury – both describe the ligaments in the ankle getting tweaked, stretched or torn, causing pain, swelling, bruising and general weakness.
Since a sprained foot is such a common injury, many different names have developed over time, including ankle sprain, folded ankle, rolled ankle – the list continues on.
But who cares, right? You’re here to learn how to treat your sprained foot and recover fast at home.
Breaking Down the Different Types of Sprains
So let’s get right into it – starting with the basics, there are three common ankle sprains that occur – an inversion, eversion and syndesmotic injury (affectionately known as a high ankle sprain).
An inversion sprain is by far the most common – accounting for over 75% of sprained – and refers to when your foot faces inward, which damages and stretches the outside ligaments of your ankle.
An eversion sprain is the exact opposite and is much less common – it’s when your foot faces outward during the injury, pulling and stretching the ligaments on the inside of your foot.
A syndesmotic sprain (aka, the high ankle sprain) refers to an injury that affects the large ligament above the ankle, called the syndesmotic ligament – this ligament acts as a connector for the tibia and fibula, the two bones that make up your lower leg.
With all three sprains, swelling, bruising, pain and joint weakness are all common symptoms – these symptoms are usually centralized around the most injured portion of your ankle, be it the inside, outside, or higher up your leg near your lower calf.
Initial Treatment Protocol
The most popular form of initial treatment is an acronym called RICE – which stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation. Rest is fairly self-explanatory – depending on the severity of your injury, you’ll want to stay off of your sprained foot for at least the first few days, and up to a week after your injury.
Ice has been proven to help control and reduce ankle swelling, and should be used until the majority of swelling has left your ankle. While using an ice pack or even a bag of frozen veggies is quite common, I’d suggest using a bucket large enough to put your foot inside of.
By filling the bucket with water and ice, you can effectively make an ice bath that will give you the best coverage over your injury – soaking your foot for 60 seconds at a time is ideal.
As a fair warning, you should feel a bit of discomfort as your dip your ankle into the water, mainly due to the rapid temperature change your skin is experiencing – if you do your best to fight through the first 15-20 seconds, you’ll be able to last the rest of the time more comfortably as your foot adapts.
After the 60 seconds are up, take your foot out of the water and carefully make your way over to a place to sit down where you can prop your ankle up above your heart – elevating your sprained foot will help the excess fluid drain toward your heart where it can be pumped and processed from your blood.
Shoot for 4-5 sets of 60 seconds of icing – once you’re finished, use an elastic wrap to compress your ankle. Starting near your toes, wrap around your foot once, and then move up your foot, wrapping over half of the previous wrap.
You should wrap tight enough for this to be effective, but loose enough so you don’t cut off circulation – be careful and make sure to listen to your body. If you’re experiencing numbness or discolorations, make sure to loosen the wrap immediately.
Once wrapped, prop your ankle back up above your heart and continue to rest – reading a book, conversing with a good friend, or listening to music can help the time pass by faster.
You should continue to ice until you’ve removed most of the remaining swelling – allow an hour in-between icing, and make sure to stay diligent – removing the remaining excess fluid is your sole focus at this point.
RICE and Beyond
While many conventional suggestions end here, most individuals aren’t familiar with how important actual rehabilitation is after you’ve reduced your remaining swelling.
Self-massage, stretching, balance training and re-strengthening are all important pieces to the overall recovery puzzle, and should be included within your recovery process.
These techniques go beyond the scope of this article, but I’d be happy to walk you through our step-by-step program that will give you the techniques, exercises and schedule to follow so you can get back to enjoying your life faster.
To learn more about our at-home sprained foot rehab program, click here.