Ankles and wrists are more likely to get sprained than other body parts. It’s important to care for sprains as soon as you can and to do your best to prevent them from happening.
Sprains in Ankles and Wrists
Sprains seem to happen innocuously: a slip and putting our hands out to break a fall, twisting an ankle playing pick-up basketball, or a slight raise on the sidewalk on a night out. No matter how they happen, a sprain is an injury caused by ligaments tearing or overstretching. If you think you’ve sprained a wrist or ankle, look for swelling, restricted movement, a popping sensation and/or bruising. Mild sprains can be treated at home, whereas severe sprains require a doctor’s visit.
If your sprain has been treated properly it should heal in about 6 weeks. If a sprain is ignored more serious, long-term issues can develop, which will likely require invasive treatment down the line.
What to Expect After an Ankle or Wrist Sprain
After a sprain occurs, the body goes to work attempting to heal itself. This is known as the inflammatory response. The inflammatory response causes the following in the sprained area:
- Restricted movement
- Sensation of heat caused by increased blood flow
- Swelling caused by fluid buildup
- Pain and sensitivity
If your injury was mild, but continues to prevent previous motion, strength, and flexibility, a virtual physical therapy appointment can help! Our educated, licensed clinicians will ask how the injury happened, what pain or restrictions you’re currently experiencing, and develop a personalized care plan to help you recover.
Should I See a Doctor?
If you think your sprain requires medical attention look out for the following; they can help you determine if a visit to the doctor is necessary.
- Excessive swelling, bruising, difficulty moving, and/or severe pain three days after the injury
- If you’re experiencing these symptoms you should visit the ER as you may need an X-ray and additional care.
- If the pain remains mild, but does not improve in two to four weeks, it’s time to see the doctor
Caring for Sprains at Home
If your sprain remains mild, clinicians recommend the RICE method for recovering from sprains at home. RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can also relieve pain. Just be sure to take the recommended dose.
Stop any activity that causes pain in the injured area. This covers the Rest portion. Apply an ice pack wrapped in a towel to the sprain for 10 – 20 minutes, three times a day. Ice helps reduce pain and swelling.
Time to compress! You can use an elastic bandage or brace available at a local pharmacy to minimize swelling. Be mindful not to wrap the sprain too tightly.
Everytime you sit down, elevate the sprain with pillows. Keep the injured area either at the same level as your heart or above it.
Ankle and Wrist Sprain Prevention
As we mentioned above, ankles and wrists are common areas of injury due to their location and the activity of active human beings. Be mindful of your moving body and if you play sports, run, or participate in other activities, wear the proper footwear to support your ankle. Additionally, keep these joints strong and conditioned to prevent injuries in the first place.
Remember, a physical therapist can help you recover! If you’re experiencing a lag in performance due to an ankle or wrist sprain, schedule a free screening to see how we can help.