Sprained ankles are another common injury that is not related to overuse. They are mostly related to the terrain you are running on. Good form can help prevent them, because your foot isn’t rolling forward as you move – but sometimes you might just miss a step or not pay attention to where you’re going. Boom – sprained ankle. Read on to see what to do with a sprained ankle.
What Is a Sprained Ankle?
Sprained ankles are actually the common name for stretched or torn ligaments. They are generally broken down into three difference categories.
- Inversion – This is the most common kind of sprained ankle. Your foot rolls outward, causing a stretching of the ligaments on the outer side of your ankle.
- Eversion – Your foot rolls inward, causing a stretching of the ligaments on the inner side of your ankle. This is much less common.
- High – Another rarer type of sprained ankle. This stretches the ligaments that are literally “higher” up in your ankle. It usually occurs due to rotational forces that occur on your body while your foot is planted.
How Do You Get It?
- Accident. Ankle sprains are almost always an accident. Watch out for curbs, rocks, holes, or anything that you can trip on when you’re running. The sprain can occur as you hit the object, as you stumble trying to keep your balance, or as you fall to the ground.
Ankle sprains are felt immediately. You usually feel a sharp pain, and sometimes a “loose” or “weak” feeling in your ankle. You will be unable to put a lot of weight on your foot, and will have to stop your run and seek assistance if necessary. Once you stop moving you will develop swelling.
Very minor ankle sprains require ice and a day off. You know the kind – you stumble while you’re half asleep in the morning, not even falling, but tweaking your ankle and foot a little bit. Ankle sprains when you are active (running) are usually more serious. You should see a doctor, who may give you crutches and prescribe physical therapy depending on the severity. Here are some things you can do on your own.
- Rest. It’s frustrating, but ligaments heal slowly. You need to be patient and give your body a few weeks, or more, to recover.
- Ice. Icing your ankle immediately can help keep swelling and pain down.
- Compression. This will help a lot with sprains, especially sprained ankles. You can use an elastic compression bandage, or even buy a custom one designed specifically for sprained ankles. This will also keep swelling and pain down. Wraps also give you a little bit of flexibility while adding strength to your weak joint. It will help the healing process.
- Elevation. Yes, this is the RICE method. It works well. Keeping your foot raised will also help keep swelling and pain down.
- OTC Medicines. Anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen will help reduce swelling. A doctor may prescribe something stronger for serious sprains.
- Physical Therapy. It you’re immobilized for a length of time, you’ll probably be sent to PT to finish your recovery.
Again, sprained ankles are almost always accidents. But, there are some things you can do to help reduce the chance of them.
- Learn proper running form. Forefoot striking helps shorten your stride. You won’t be caught in an awkward position if you step on an obstacle. It will also reduce the roll in your foot (as opposed to heel striking), increasing the change that stepping on an obstacle will simply remain such. You won’t trip, fall, and sprain your ankle!
- Pay attention. Look for objects you can trip on and avoid them.
- Stretch. Ankle rolls may not help much, but if you are loose and limber, your ligaments may be able to stretch more naturally before they reach the point that injury occurs.
This is a post in a series of articles about common running injuries. These articles are purposely broad and intended for your education. Do not use this information as a substitute for doctor’s advice or a professional medical opinion. To see the entire series, click here.