Common ailments

Sprains and strains

I think I may have sprained my ankle whilst I was out running a couple of days ago. I’m finding it painful to walk and the area surrounding my ankle has become swollen and a little bruised. What is the best way to treat my ankle and ease the pain?

Sprains and strains are common injuries and often occur if you change direction or speed suddenly, or fall and land awkwardly. A sprain is overstretching of a ligament (the fibrous band which holds two bones together at a joint), whilst a strain is overstretching of a muscle or its tendon.

It sounds as though you have sprained your ankle which, if left untreated, will cause your ankle to become stiff and weak. It is important therefore that you take a few simple measures to give your ankle the best chance of healing quickly.

Initially, try to rest your ankle and avoid taking any weight through it; avoid exercising and running on your ankle for several days at least. While you are resting however, gently moving your ankle will help reduce the swelling and encourage healing. Slowly and gently bend and straighten your ankle and then rotate it in different directions.

Regularly applying an ice pack to your ankle (or a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a damp cloth) will also help reduce both swelling and pain. Aim to do this for 20-30 minutes at a time, 3-4 times a day.

An elastic bandage or ankle support (available from your local pharmacy or supermarket) will protect your ankle whilst it is healing and keep the swelling down. You should however remove the bandage when you go to bed. Wearing an elastic bandage for too long can cause further weakness, so stop wearing it altogether once your swelling has gone down. Whenever you are resting, try to keep your foot raised, perhaps on a pillow or stool and remove the bandage at those times.

The above steps, combined with taking a simple anti-inflammatory tablet such as Ibuprofen, works very well for the vast majority of sprains. If however your ankle does not appear to be improving within 7 days of following my advice above, you may wish to visit your GP or a local walk-in-centre for further advice and examination of your ankle.

Back to list