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Protect your ankles

Your ankles are some of the most vulnerable joints of the body, having to withstand the impact of up to three times your body weight.

If you hurt your ankle while playing sports or by simply stepping off a curb the wrong way, the old memory helper "RICE" is still the best form of treatment. RICE stands for: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.

Rest. Get off your ankle right away.

Ice. Put crushed ice into a plastic bag or wrap it in a towel and place it on your ankle for at least 30 minutes right after the injury. If there's any sign of swelling after the first 30 minutes, apply ice for 30 minutes on and 15 minutes off over the next few hours. When the pain eases, try standing and putting your weight on your ankle. If this causes pain, try to stay off your foot for the next 24 hours.

Compress. Support your ankle with a 3" elastic bandage (available in supermarkets and drug stores). Do not wrap the bandage too tightly, it may cut off or slow blood to your foot.

Elevate. Make sure your ankle is raised a little higher than your hips.

Your ankle should feel back to normal within about 10 days. Full healing will take from four to six weeks. If you do any hard activity during this time, have your ankle wrapped with the elastic bandage or other ankle support device.

How to avoid ankle sprains:

  • Always stretch your calf muscles before and after exercising. Tight calf muscles will put pressure on the large tendon that supports the back of your ankle.
  • Wear shoes that provide support. For sports, wear tightly laced, high-top shoes.
  • Avoid high platform shoes, high heels and any shoes that throw your foot off balance.
  • Follow a regular exercise program. People who don't exercise are more likely to suffer a sprain than those with strong muscles.

When should you see a doctor?
If your ankle is deformed or bending in an unusual manner or if pain has prevented you from putting any weight on your ankle for more than 24 hours, see a doctor immediately. Your doctor will examine your ankle to see if X-rays are necessary. If there's no fracture, your doctor will advise you to continue with the "RICE" treatment. If there is a fracture, a cast will be necessary.

For more information on orthopedic services, or for a physician referral, call (502) 897-8131.