You Hurt Your Ankle, Now What?

You just hurt your ankle, what do you do now? Here are the most important treatments to get back healthy as fast as possible. This is how I have treated athletes in professional sports and it works extremely well. Read on to get the details for how elite athletes take care of their ankle sprains. Before we start here, if you are concerned for a fracture, go here first. If you have interest in self assessing an ankle sprain, you can do so here.

Best Early Treatment For A Hurt Ankle

  • Ankle pumps
  • ABCs
  • Weight bear and balance
  • Don’t use rest or use ice

Ankle Pumps For A Hurt Ankle

Movement is the key to healing. Moving activates muscles which restores proper function to the joint as well as activate the lymphatic system

  • Sit in a long seated position
  • Push the foot forward like you are pushing a gas pedal
  • Perform this for time, 3 minutes in a single session
  • This helps restore lost motion
  • Some pain is ok (no more than 4/10)

    ABCs For An Hurt Ankle

    This follows the same concept as the ankle pumps. This restores lost motion and function. However this opens up the ankle to all of the motions it is capable of.

    • Complete the alphabet 3x, upper and lower case each
    • Repeat this twice a day as long as needed to restore motion
    • Same as with the ankle pumps, 4/10 pain at most is ok

    Weight Bear And Balance For A Hurt Ankle

    Walk as much as possible. A lot of times for athletes, I prescribe walking for their early rehab. This allows more ROM and strength to be maintained. Both of these results will lead to a quicker recovery and faster return to whatever activity level you were at prior to injury

    • Begin to work on single leg balance
    • If this is not possible begin with weight shifts (video below)
    • Complete 50 reps on the injured ankle with as much weight as tolerable
    • When 100% weight bearing is possible, progress to a single leg balance to build strength
    • Single leg balance will restore the strength to bring back normal ankle function
    • Never use a Bosu ball, AirX pad or any other unstable surface; these will hinder rehab
    • You decrease force output which limits the muscle strength that can be gained
    • Complete 3 sets of 30 seconds
    • Progress to 45 and then 60 seconds

    Don’t Rest, Ice Or Anti-Inflammatories For A Hurt Ankle

    Do Not Rest

    If you rest and sit on the couch until it stops hurting, it will heal slower. The body needs movement to heal properly. If you rest and do nothing, you will lose ROM and the ankle will get weaker. This will lead to a longer and more difficult rehab.

    Do Not Use Ice

    Ice delays inflammation, it does not reduce it. It causes vasoconstriction (blood vessels close). The tissue then has to warm back up to return to normal function. Inflammation is REQUIRED for an injury to heal. If you delay inflammation you delay healing.

    Do Not Take Ibuprofen For Your Hurt Ankle

    Ibuprofen reduces inflammation. Again, you want the inflammation in the early phase to heal properly (link). Additionally people take way too much, way too often and risk damaging their liver as well as developing stomach ulcers.

    Reminder, this is far from an all encompassing ankle rehab. This is just an early management for the first few days. You have now properly taken care of your ankle sprain and are ready to rehab it.