In the initial period after a sprain, icing does help contain the swelling. Especially if you have a more severe injury. If you are pretty much immobile, then icing is a good idea for the first 36 hours. The problem is that this is all most people do. This is just the very beginning step toward rehabilitating the ankle. But, in the first 36 hours, ice will help contain the swelling and can be used as a treatment. How long should you keep the ice on your ankle? And what is the best way to do it?
As a general rule, you should ice your ankle about 15 minutes and then take the ice off for 20 minutes, then ice it again and so on. By far the most effective way to ice your ankle is by placing it in a sink or bucket of cold ice water. Yeah, it's very cold, but much better than just placing a bag of ice over your ankle. You will definitely feel the difference!
Okay, so now you know how to ice your ankle, but that brings us to another problem. After 36 hours, you will not get enough results to make it worth it to keep doing it. I can pretty much guarantee your ankle will still be very swollen, stiff, bruised and immobile after 36 hours. What then?
So, you have reduced the swelling a little bit with the ice, but now you still have a swollen sprained ankle that you can barely move, let alone walk on … right? Unfortunately, most people think they are stuck just resting and elevating it until it heals. This can take anywhere from 2-8 weeks. That's a very long time for such an injury. To make matters worse, once you can walk normally again, your ankle will still be very weak. In other words, the initial injury creates scar tissue which makes the ankle joint inflexibile and weak. What does this mean? Well, you will be at far greater risk for injuring your ankle again. But, that's not the only problem …
If your ankle is weak and inflexible which naturally occurs after an injury, you put yourself at risk for knee, hip, and low back pain. Post why? It starts getting pretty technical, but just imagine that your ankle can not move as well as it did before the injury. This affects how you walk, run and stand. These seemingly small changes (you may not even notice the difference), have a large effect on the kinetic chain that runs up your body. I have seen people who have bad shoulder or neck pain, because their ankles were so weak and immobile. it affected their posture and created muscle imbalances that run all the way up their body.
So, what can you do to properly rehab your sprained ankle?
The good news is that you are not condemned to having a weak and immobile ankle forever. There are exercises and stretches that specifically strengthen the ankle joint and heal the neuromuscular damage that occurs after an ankle sprain. Further, by rehabilitating the ankle properly, you will be at much lower risk for future ankle injuries and help keep your body free of pain. I have developed a system for rehabilitating the ankle called HEM It targets every part iof the rehabilitation process and has been incredibly effective with my clients.
The best part about my program is that it dramatically reduces the healing time. Instead of taking 2-8 weeks to heal, my clients are walking normally again in 3-5 days. No, I am not exaggertating. Plus, the program is extremely easy to do and can be done easily at home or even in bed, if you are immobile. I have seen some other exercises and stretches, but they tend to only fix part of the problem and can leave your ankle unprotected from further injury. Also, most of these exercises do not rapidly speed up recovery time. It is important to make sure you are doing stretches and exercises that really target the ankle joint correctly to make sure you do not cause harm and at the same time, get maximum results.