Ankle Sprains – Brace it or leave it?

If you are an athlete or just plain clumsy like myself I am sure you have twisted your ankle at any given point. Sometimes we can walk it off and other times it results in swelling and pain when we attempt to stand or walk. However, it is important to know that you should NEVER apply a brace unless the injury was a fracture or dislocation (which at this point I hope you have seen your MD). Most people want to throw a brace on immediately because it temporarily relieves pain. So what’s the problem? Well a brace can actually make your ankle worse by restricting your motion and causing your ankle to become even more stiff. If you leave a brace on for a long time you will actually begin to lose motion in your ankle which will in turn make it even harder to walk normally.

So, what should you do?

If you ever sprain your ankle bad enough that you have swelling then you should always remember R.I.C.E.

  • R – REST
  • I – ICE

This is critical to perform the first 72 hours after any ankle sprain that involves swelling. You should lay on your back with the affected ankle above your heart (elevation) with ICE around your ankle. You can do this by stacking pillows up on your bed/couch to keep your leg elevated. Just remember, ICE ICE ICE! Ice helps constrict blood vessels to reduce overall swelling. You should also be aware that while in this position you should try to move your foot up/down as well as make circles with your foot. When you do either of those 2 exercises the muscle in your calf acts as a pump to help move the swelling out of your ankle.

With that said, DO NOT be afraid to move your ankle. It may be painful at first but the faster you get it moving again the faster you will feel better. The longer you “baby” your ankle and not move it the more stiff you will become. When this happens you will have the pleasure to be spending long days in physical therapy with me trying to regain your motion/strength.

To recap – Ice & rest for the first 72 hours, DO NOT brace, and DO NOT be afraid to move it!

One final simple exercise to get your ankle moving – try to move your ankle as if you were writing the letters of the alphabet. This will help get your ankle moving in all directions.

Please let me know if you have any questions about this or any other tips/advice I give! Have a great night.



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