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How Important Is Rest for Foot and Ankle Sprains?

A wrong step off a curb, a bad pivot in a game of basketball, or a sudden twist can overstretch the ligaments in your foot or ankle and cause a sprain. 

At Dan Preece, DPM & Darren Groberg, DPM, in Salt Lake City, a branch of Utah Musculoskeletal Specialists, our board-certified foot and ankle surgeons see all types of lower extremity sprains and offer a full line of treatment options. 

In extreme cases, sprains may require surgery to repair the damage, but the first course of treatment for foot and ankle trauma is always rest. Here’s why.

What happens when you sprain your foot or ankle

About 30,000 people sprain their ankles every day in the United States, and many of those injuries occur in the sports arena. Foot sprains are less common, but no less painful. But you don’t need to be an athlete to experience trauma to your foot or ankle; it can happen to anyone, anywhere. 

When you come see us for treatment, we conduct a thorough exam to determine the severity of your injury and use a standard grading scale to classify your sprain:

Grade I 

We give you a grade I if you’ve overstretched your ligaments but you’re still able to bear weight and walk.

Grade II

If you’ve partially torn one or more of your ligaments, and you can’t walk without limping, you get a grade II score.

Grade III

A complete rupture of your ligaments and the inability to bear any weight at all warrants a grade III rating.

What happens next depends on the grade of your sprain, your overall health, your pain level, and your future activity goals. Dr. Preece or Dr. Groberg discusses all your options with you, but you can expect to start your treatment with some considerable rest.

Why rest a sprained foot or ankle?

You may have heard about the RICE method of treatment immediately after sustaining a sprain. Here’s why that’s good advice. 

RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation — four important steps in the moments, days, and weeks following your injury because they each work toward reducing inflammation. Prolonged inflammation increases your pain and slows healing, so the goal is to get rid of the inflammation after it’s done its initial job of flooding the area with healing properties. 

Here’s a closer look at why rest is so important.

1. Prevents further damage

Staying off your injured foot or ankle helps you avoid damaging the tissue even more. Your sprained foot or ankle is weak and unstable; if you try to walk on it, or worse, run and participate in sports, it exacerbates your pain, increases swelling, and may cause a partial tear to rupture completely.

2. Promotes healing

Tissue healing is a complicated business, and your body does its best work when you allow it to rest. Every time you put weight on your injured body part, energy diverts from the healing process and focuses on keeping your foot and ankle stable. 

If the extra pressure also happens to cause more micro-tears, then the healing process gets more complex and has to work double-time to keep up with the additional damage.

3. Staves off chronic ankle instability

One of the most common complications of ankle sprains is future ankle instability. This typically occurs because the original injury wasn’t allowed to heal properly — meaning it wasn’t well-rested. 

Chronic ankle instability can be the result of an ankle sprain that didn’t heal properly and formed scar tissue that interferes with flexibility and mobility, or it could be the result of weak ligaments that compromise the joint’s future functionality.

Either way, if it doesn’t rest long enough to heal properly, your likelihood of reinjuring that ankle increases significantly. 

Treating your sprain after the resting period

Our team helps you understand the nature of your injury and the appropriate length of time for rest. Once that period is over, it’s time to engage in physical therapy that reduces ongoing inflammation, increases flexibility, strengthens your muscles and ligaments, and promotes healing.

In some cases, Drs. Groberg and Preece may recommend Multiwave Locked System (MLS) Therapy Laser® to accelerate the healing process. This FDA-cleared, patented technology dramatically decreases pain and inflammation by targeting your tissues with therapeutic pulses of controlled laser energy. 

If you’ve suffered an ankle or foot sprain — rest. And come see us for proper rehabilitation and healing. Schedule an appointment using our online tool or call us today. 


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