Ankle sprains are a common injury that can occur as a result of twisting or rolling the ankle. This type of injury often leads to damage to the surrounding tissues, including nerves. Nerve damage after an ankle sprain can cause numbness, tingling, and pain in the affected area, which may limit mobility and impact daily activities.
Preventing further nerve damage is crucial for recovery from an ankle sprain. Although some degree of nerve damage may be inevitable with this type of injury, there are several steps that can be taken to minimize the severity of nerve injuries and promote healing.
In this article, we will discuss five effective ways to prevent further nerve damage after an ankle sprain. By implementing these strategies into your recovery plan, you can help ensure optimal healing and return to normal activity levels as quickly as possible.
1. Rest And Immobilization Of The Ankle
Ankle sprains are a common injury that can result in nerve damage, requiring rest and immobilization of the ankle to prevent further nerve damage after an ankle sprain. The injured ankle must be rested, and all activities that cause pain should be avoided.
Immobilization of the ankle can help reduce inflammation and provide stability to the joint, thereby preventing further damage to nerves surrounding it, and is usually achieved by using a brace or cast. A healthcare professional may recommend different types of braces depending on the severity of the injury.
2. Elevation of the Ankle
Elevating the injured ankle is an essential step in preventing further nerve damage after an ankle sprain. Elevation helps to reduce swelling, which is a common occurrence after an ankle sprain, and that’s because it allows gravity to assist in draining excess fluid and reducing inflammation. This, in turn, can provide relief from pain and discomfort while promoting faster healing.
To properly elevate the ankle, follow these steps:
Find a comfortable position where you can sit or lie down. Choose a location where you can fully relax, such as a couch, bed, or recliner.
Use pillows or cushions to support the injured ankle. Place a pillow or two under your lower leg, extending from below the knee to the foot, to raise the ankle above the level of your heart.
Make sure the ankle is supported adequately, allowing it to rest in a slightly elevated position. The angle of elevation may vary depending on your comfort, but it should be higher than the level of your heart.
You can also use gravity to your advantage by letting your ankle hang off the edge of the surface slightly, as long as it remains comfortable.
It is recommended to elevate the ankle as often as possible, especially during the initial stages of the injury when swelling is more prominent. Aim to elevate the ankle for at least 15 to 30 minutes, three to four times a day. However, it's even better if you can maintain elevation for longer periods, such as when resting or sleeping.
3. Ice Treatment
Ice therapy, also known as cryotherapy, is a helpful treatment for reducing inflammation and providing pain relief after an ankle sprain.
Benefits of ice therapy:
Ice therapy offers several benefits for managing nerve damage and promoting healing after an ankle sprain:
Reduces inflammation: Cold temperatures constrict blood vessels, which helps to reduce blood flow and minimize swelling in the injured area.
Alleviates pain: Ice numbs the nerve endings in the affected area, providing temporary pain relief and reducing discomfort.
Controls bleeding: If there is any minor internal bleeding associated with the injury, ice therapy can help constrict blood vessels and limit bleeding.
To apply ice therapy to the ankle, follow these steps:
1. Use a cold pack or ice pack: Wrap an ice pack or a bag of crushed ice in a thin towel or cloth. This helps prevent direct contact between the ice and the skin, reducing the risk of ice burn.
2. Position the ice pack: Place the ice pack on the injured area, focusing on the most painful or swollen parts of the ankle.
3. Duration and frequency: Apply ice therapy for about 15 to 20 minutes at a time. Repeat this every 2 to 3 hours during the first 24 to 72 hours after the injury. It's important not to exceed the recommended time to avoid potential tissue damage.
4. Be mindful of sensations: It's normal to feel a cold sensation followed by numbness during ice therapy. However, if you experience excessive pain, numbness, or discomfort, remove the ice pack immediately.
4. Compression Therapy
Compression is an effective technique to prevent further nerve damage and aid in the healing process after an ankle sprain. It helps in managing nerve damage and promoting healing in the following ways:
1. Reduced swelling: Applying compression to the injured ankle helps limit the accumulation of fluid and decreases swelling. This can alleviate pressure on the nerves and surrounding tissues.
2. Stabilization and support: Compression provides external support to the injured ankle, reducing excessive movement and providing stability to the affected area. This helps protect the damaged nerves and prevents further damage.
3. Enhanced blood flow: Compression improves blood circulation by exerting gentle pressure on the blood vessels. Improved blood flow delivers vital nutrients and oxygen to the injured tissues, facilitating the healing process.
To properly apply compression to the ankle, follow these steps:
1. Choose the right compression wrap: Select an elastic bandage or compression wrap that is specifically designed for the ankle or foot. These are readily available at pharmacies or medical supply stores.
2. Prepare the ankle: Before applying compression, ensure that the ankle is clean and dry. If necessary, use a thin sock or liner to protect the skin from irritation caused by the compression wrap.
3. Start at the toes: Begin wrapping the compression wrap at the base of the toes. Make sure to wrap it snugly, but not too tight, to avoid cutting off circulation.
4. Gradually move upward: Continue wrapping the compression wrap around the ankle, overlapping each layer by about half of the previous layer. As you move upward, maintain consistent pressure to provide uniform compression.
5. Secure the wrap: Once you reach just above the ankle, secure the compression wrap with clips, adhesive tape, or the Velcro straps provided with the wrap. Ensure that it remains comfortably snug without causing discomfort.
Keep the compression wrap on for the recommended duration, usually several hours or as advised by a healthcare professional. It can be worn during activities or removed during periods of rest. Do pay attention to any signs of excessive tightness or discomfort. If you experience numbness, tingling, or increased pain, loosen or remove the compression wrap immediately.
5. Physical Therapy And Rehabilitation Exercises
Ice and compression therapy can be effective in reducing inflammation, pain, and swelling after an ankle sprain. However, these measures alone may not be sufficient to prevent further nerve damage.
Physical therapy and rehabilitation exercises are essential for restoring strength, stability, and range of motion to the affected joint. In addition, they can help prevent recurrent sprains by improving proprioception or body awareness.
A physical therapist typically designs a customized program based on the individual's specific needs and goals. The initial phase of treatment may involve gentle movements, such as ankle pumps or circles, to improve blood circulation and reduce stiffness.
As the patient progresses, more challenging exercises are introduced that focus on strengthening the muscles around the ankle joint. These may include calf raises, toe curls, balance training with wobble boards or foam pads, and resistance band exercises.
Rehabilitation exercises should then be performed regularly under the supervision of a trained professional until full recovery is achieved. Patient records will also be helpful as proof for a nerve damage claimshould a personal injury claim be anticipated. In this situation, it’s important to get professional assistance from a legal advisor who will be able to help you be awarded the compensation that you’re due.
Ankle sprains are a common injury that can result in nerve damage if not treated properly. So, rest the ankle to help reduce swelling and inflammation, which can cause nerve damage, and utilize ice and compression therapy to reduce the pain.
Getting professional help via physical therapy is strongly recommended as this can help strengthen the muscles around the ankle joint to prevent future injuries while rehabilitation exercises can improve balance and coordination.