An acute injury should always be iced, never heated, whether it?s a muscle strain, a twisted ankle, or pain around a joint. The ice will constrict blood flow in surrounding blood vessels, which reduces swelling at the injury site. The cold will also help to dampen pain. Apply an ice pack for 15 to 20 minutes, about four times daily. Always use ice after a physical activity rather than before.
Commercial ice packs work well, including disposable packs that rely on a chemical reaction for instant cooling, or cold gel packs that can be kept in the freezer and reused. But a homemade ice pack will do the job equally well. A bag of frozen peas works well.
After a few days of icing, applying moist heat to help with the healing process for as long as needed. It reduces stiffness that occurs around an injury site and increases blood flow to healing muscles and joints.
Avoid heat until three to five days after an injury. I prefer a moist heating pad. Heating pads can be left on an injury for 15 or 20 minutes at a time; don?t leave a heating pad on the site while sleeping. Heat can also be helpful for chronic injuries, particularly before an activity, to loosen muscles and increase mobility.
Treatment of a sprained ankle can be separated into immediate first aid and longer term rehabilitation and strengthening.
• Immediate First Aid for a sprained ankle:
• Aim to reduce the swelling by RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) as soon as possible. Come into the office for an evaluation as soon as possible. The sooner I can start to treat the injury with the Laser the better it will feel.
• R is for rest. It is important to rest the injury to reduce pain and prevent further damage. Use crutches if necessary. I advocate partial weight bearing as soon as pain will allow. Getting you back to your activities of daily living will accelerate the rehabilitation process.
• I is for ICE or cold therapy. Applying ice and compression can ease the pain, reduce swelling, reduce bleeding (initially) and encourage blood flow (when used later). Apply an ice pack immediately following the injury for 15 minutes. Repeat this every hour.
• C is for compression – This reduces bleeding and helps reduce swelling. A wrap or bandaging technique is excellent for providing support and compression to a recently injured ankle.
• E is for Elevation – Uses gravity to reduce bleeding and swelling by allowing fluids to flow away from the site of injury. So put your feet up and get someone else to wait on you!
• Following the initial painful stage, there are other treatments that can help the ankle return to normal as soon as possible. Range of motion exercises such as ankle circles can help to get the ankle moving again, as well as reducing swelling if performed with the leg elevated. The calf muscles often tighten up to protect the joint following a sprained ankle, and so gently stretching the calf muscles can also help to maintain movement at the joint.