Sprained Your Ankle? Treat Immediately with the RICE Protocol

Sprained Your Ankle? Treat Immediately with the RICE Protocol

Whether you tumbled off your high heels, stumbled down a flight of stairs, or planted and pivoted in a pick-up game of hoops, your twisted ankle doesn’t care what caused the injury, it just wants immediate relief.

That’s where the RICE method comes in. The acronym stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation, and it’s the standard protocol following an ankle sprain

At Dan Preece, DPM, and Darren Groberg, DPM, a branch of the Utah Musculoskeletal Specialists in Salt Lake City, Utah, we diagnose and treat ankle sprains from minor grade 1 twists to severe grade 3 ligament ruptures and everything in between.

Regardless of the severity, the first course of action should always be the RICE protocol — but don’t get stuck in that stage. Here’s why.

What’s the RICE method?

The RICE method for treating sprains is a common-sense protocol that protects your injury and promotes the early stages of healing.

Rest

Rest is a passive word that conjures up images of lounging on the couch watching TV, and that is certainly part of the RICE method. But before the lounging comes into play, you need to employ the more active interpretation of rest — Stop!

For most people, this is an instinctive reaction to pain, but some may try to “play through” it, especially competitive athletes. Unfortunately, that can turn a minor injury into a major one, so listen to your body and stay off your sprained ankle.

When you get home, kick back and rest until you can come see us for a thorough evaluation.

Ice

Sprained ankles hurt, and ice numbs the area and reduces pain, so use it. A bag of frozen peas or a zip-top bag of crushed ice wrapped in a towel (to prevent freezer burn on your skin) can help reduce swelling and ease the pain. Shoot for 10-20 minutes at a time, three or four times a day for the first few days.

Compression

When you sprain your ankle, your body floods the area with blood, which carries healing factors to the scene. That’s great at first, but when the blood and other fluids stick around, the resulting inflammation adds to the pain and slows down the healing process. 

Wearing compression socks or wrapping your ankle with an Ace bandage can guide the fluids out of the area and stop them from pooling in your injured ankle.

Warning: You’ll know you’ve wrapped your ankle too tightly if it starts to feel tingly or numb. 

Elevation

Another way to dissipate the inflammation is to keep your ankle elevated above the level of your heart. So, as you’re resting, prop your foot up and a stack of pillows to keep your ankle comfortable and protected while giving the fluids the advantage of gravity.

Why you should only follow the RICE method temporarily

The RICE method is the perfect first response to a sprained ankle — but it’s not designed to take you through your entire recovery process. 

During the first couple of days following your injury, the main goal is to reduce the pain and swelling, but in doing so, the RICE method also restricts blood flow — and good blood flow is essential to healing.

That’s why we recommend switching from RICE to other treatments that increase your circulation and speed up the healing process.

Drs. Preece and Groberg evaluate the severity of your sprained ankle, as well as all your symptoms, to determine the best timeline for incorporating different therapies into your treatment plan. After RICE has done all it can for you, we may transition you to:

By adding these modalities to your treatment, we encourage, rather than restrict, blood flow to your sprained ankle. Movement is especially important in your rehabilitation, but it’s important to do this under the supervision of an experienced physical therapist and not on your own, as the wrong movements can set you back in your recovery.

Increased blood flow may come with a little extra discomfort (which is where ibuprofen comes in), but in the long run, you’ll heal more quickly and completely. 

Another way to accelerate healing by amping up your circulation is multiwave locked system MLS® Laser therapy, an innovative treatment that uses the power of light energy to reduce inflammation and deliver an analgesic effect. 

To make sure your sprained ankle gets the best care from the first minute to the last rehab session, team up with the ankle experts at Dan Preece, DMP, and Darren Groberg, DPM, by calling or booking online today. 

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