5 Reasons to Rest Your Sprained Ankle

misc image

Whether you misjudged the curb or misjudged your ability to sink a layup, you’ve got a sprained ankle to show for it. Even if you can tolerate the pain and limp along through your daily activities, here’s why you should stay off of it for a while.

Sprained ankles are among the most common injuries in the United States, to the tune of 25,000 incidents daily and 2 million annually. Chances are, you’ve experienced this type of ankle pain at least once in your life. 

A severe ankle sprain involves a completely ruptured tendon that requires immediate medical attention and possible surgery, but mild sprains can seem more like a nuisance than a medical problem. 

Depending on your level of pain tolerance, you may be tempted to soldier through the discomfort and carry on with your everyday activities, but doing so could land you in another pool of statistics: Up to 70% of people with acute ankle sprains develop chronic ankle instability, increasing their likelihood of a recurrent ankle sprain. 

Our goal at Ankle and Foot Institute of Texas in Fort Worth is to help you avoid that. Matthew Cerniglia, DPM, offers expert care for sprained ankles, from conservative treatments like bracing and orthotics to total ankle replacement, when necessary. 

Regardless of the severity, all ankle sprains call for rest, the most underrated aspect of treatment. Here, Dr. Cerniglia explains why taking it easy is the best thing you can do for your aching ankle.

Why you should rest your sprained ankle

You may have heard the acronym RICE as a first-aid treatment for injuries. It stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation — four measures you can take to care for any musculoskeletal injury. 

The R comes first for a reason: Without rest, the other techniques do no good. Here are five reasons you should stay off of your sprained ankle.

1. Rest stops the pain

Except for the most severe ankle sprains that hurt even when your ankle is idle, rest offers you a respite from the agony of your injury. When the pain subsides, your stress hormones calm down, and your body can focus on healing.

2. Rest reduces inflammation

Inflammation serves a purpose when you sustain an injury. It signifies that your body has sent healing reinforcements to the scene. However, when inflammation sticks around, it becomes part of the problem rather than the solution. Resting your ankle enables the fluid to subside so you can get on with the healing and rehabilitation process.

3. Rest speeds healing

Resting your sprained ankle means putting your life on hold for a while. If you’re a parent with young kids, an athlete, or an active person on the go, you may be tempted to power through it, ignoring the crucial resting phase of your healing. Unfortunately, your impatience will likely extend your healing time. 

Walking on your sprained ankle can increase the damage and generate even more inflammation, so take rest seriously. 

4. Rest can prevent recurrent injuries

We mentioned that up to 70% of people with sprained ankles go on to experience repeat injuries, and most of them can thank an inadequate resting period for that. Returning to your regular routine, especially sports, too early puts you at risk for recurrent ankle sprains and even more downtime. It pays to heal correctly the first time.

5. Rest helps you avoid chronic instability

Those who ignore the resting phase of ankle sprain treatment risk more than a future injury; they also risk a lifelong battle with chronic ankle instability, which involves permanently weakened ligaments. This means your ankle feels loose and wobbly all the time, as if it could give out at any moment — and often does. 

When you need more than rest for your sprained ankle

Mild ankle sprains (grade 1) involve mild-to-moderate pain and minor swelling. You can put weight on your ankle, but it hurts. Moderate ankle sprains (grade 2) have considerable swelling, it hurts to move, and walking is painful. Grade 3 ankle sprains, where the ligament tears completely, involve severe swelling, discoloration, intense pain, and the inability to walk or stand.

For all types of sprained ankles, we start with the RICE method, but we add a P and call it PRICE. The P is for protection in the form of a splint or crutches.

You can care for your grade 2 ankle sprain at home, but if the pain worsens or doesn’t subside after about a week, come in to see us. If you suspect a grade 2 or 3 ankle sprain, schedule an appointment with Dr. Cerniglia right away. Early treatment ensures proper healing and less chance of complications down the road.

While you’re resting, call Ankle and Foot Institute of Texas or request an appointment using our online booking tool.