“Several new studies in people and animals suggest that a single sprained ankle can alter how well and often you move for LIFE. In one study, students with chronic ankle instability moved significantly less than the other students, taking about 2,000 fewer steps on average each day.”
Don’t Just Walk Off a Sprain, Gretchen Reynolds, The New York Times, September 9, 2015
“Several new studies in people and animals suggest that the effects of even a single sprained ankle could be substantial and lingering… A single sprain led to far more inactivity throughout their lives.”
Don’t Just Walk Off a Sprain, Gretchen Reynolds, The New York Times, Sep. 9, 2015
Three new studies, each co-authored by Tricia Hubbard-Turner, a professor of kinesiology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, has found that just ONE sprained ankle can have serious long term affects if NOT properly healed.
In the first study, Dr. Hubbard-Turner and her colleagues recruited 20 college students with chronic ankle instability, which is caused by a sprained ankle that was never fully or properly healed… (it means that the ankles were stiff, weak and had limited range of motion) and then the researchers chose 20 healthy students and asked all of them to wear a pedometer for a week. The researchers controlled for variables like sex, B.M.I. and general health.
It turned out that the students with chronic ankle instability moved significantly less than the other students, taking about 2,000 fewer steps on average each day.
In a second study, done with young adult mice, the researchers mildly sprained some of the rodents’ ankles and compared them to a control group that had no ankle injuries. They let the mice with sprained ankles rest for several days before giving all of the animals access to running wheels and also testing them for balance by inking their feet and having them skitter along a narrow beam. The researchers followed the mice for a year…
At the end of that time, the mice whose ankle ligaments remained untouched were:
- Running significantly more mileage on their wheels than the mice that had a sprained ankle, even though, presumably, the injury had healed long ago.
- The animals with a past sprained ankle also continued to slip during balance testing far more often than the control mice.
In the third study, they continued to follow and test the same groups of mice until they passed away from old age. They found that the consequences of a single ankle sprain continued to impair their movement for the rest of their lives. The mice that had experienced ankle sprains ran less and more slowly throughout their entire lives than the healthy mice.
“In these animals, a single sprain had led to far more inactivity” throughout their lives than among the animals with intact ankles, Dr. Hubbard-Turner said.
Does Not Heal
A Sprained Ankle
First of all, you have to respect and understand the body’s natural healing process if you want to fully recover from ankle sprains, whether you have severe sprain (grade 3) or like most ankle sprains, something more mild (grade 1).
The steps for an injured ankle are always the same… Ankle sprains happen when there is damage to the ligaments and they require a 3 step healing process to fully heal.
In the beginning, your ankle will have inflammation, but remember it is a vital part of the healing process… By the way, recent research has clearly shown that ice is NOT effective for reducing swelling or healing a sprained ankle.) For more on that, please read (Do NOT Ice a Sprained Ankle).
So, right after the ankle sprain, the injured ankle becomes inflamed and painful. Just stay calm… it’s just a natural part of the healing process! But, what should you do?
Rest is very important for healing a sprained ankle. No one in their right mind would dispute that fact. After an injury, your body has sustained damage and a certain amount of rest allows the body to start the repair process.
Without rest, your body will NOT have the time and ability to repair the damaged tissues, ligaments, muscles, etc. That is simple common sense.
But, the question is…
HOW MUCH REST?
Unfortunately, many people assume that since rest is good, prolonged rest or complete rest must also be good. That is not the case. Prolonged rest actually does more harm than good when thinking about what helps ankle sprains heal. So, in a nut shell, rest is good, but too much rest is NOT good.
YOUR ANKLE CANNOT HEAL BY ITSELF. And that’s what you’re forcing on your ankle by just resting it… Your ankle will atrophy and remain weak, immobile and unstable, which can lead to a high, risk of chronic ankle sprains.
That’s why these studies are now showing that ankle sprains which never fully healed will negatively affect your overall movement for the rest of your life.
In addition, weak, stiff, unstable ankle have a few serious issues that can linger for life:
- You can have chronic ankle pain for years
- You are at a high risk of future ankle sprains
- Ankle sprains can negatively affect other areas of the body (i.e., knees, hips and low back)
So, healing an ankle sprain fully and properly is really important. If we are talking about sprained ankles, then it is actually extremely critical, because weak and unstable ankles will change how you walk. This can lead to pain in the knees, hips and low back.
So, prolonged rest is NOT the answer… it is a serious problem that can negatively affect your movement for the rest of your life. So, now let’s look at what you can do to fully heal your ankle, whether it is a new or old injury.
(Please, note: If you have a fracture, you DO NEED complete rest. It’s always best to get an x-ray and consult with your doctor after an injury. But, if you do NOT have a fracture and the ankle sprain is capable of rehab, then the sooner you begin, the better. If you have a fracture, as soon as it heals, your body will NEED a good sprained ankle rehab as soon as possible, but just wait until it heals first.)
Heals An Ankle Sprain
If you want to fully heal an ankle sprain and not have all of these issues, then just follow this simple rule… let the ankle REST most of the day, but then add in some gentle and progressive REHAB techniques that reduce swelling, bruising and pain.
Slowly and gently move and strengthen the ankle in the coming days and weeks. You don’t need to rehab a sprained ankle for more than 20-30 minutes a day and then you can rest. Your ankle will get targeted rehab for strength, stability and healthy range of motion and then be allowed to rest again. This is a proven and safe formula for fully healing an ankle sprain.
The HEM Ankle Rehab System was designed as a simple, but powerful, scientifically backed 3 step system you can do at home to fully and quickly heal a sprained ankle. It is extremely effective at reducing swelling and pain quickly and also significantly improves strength, stability and healthy range of motion in your ankles to get you back to full health and protect against future injury without the need for ankle braces.
You can also good to a really good physical therapist, but just keep in mind that physical therapy can be very time consuming and expensive. But, please choose the best option for you!
While we have been talking mostly about new ankle sprains, remember that HEM Ankle Rehab WORKS FOR OLDER INJURIES TOO. So, if you have an old injury that never healed properly, you can still regain stability, strength and healthy range of motion by using HEM Ankle Rehab.
A good ankle rehab program is much more than just a few random exercises you can find on the internet. It must be a step by step program that allows you to rebuild the strength, stability and range of motion in the ankles, from the ground up.
That is why the HEM Ankle Rehab System actually contains a REHAB and PREHAB section. The rehab section shows you exactly how to heal your ankle after a sprain or the steps you take for an older injury. And then, once your ankle is healthy again, the prehab section shows you how to protect and strengthen a healthy ankle to improve overall performance and reduce the risk of injury.
Here are just a few benefits of fully healing your ankle:
- Pain Free Movement – walking, running, hiking, jumping, etc.
- Full Range of Motion in the Ankles – this helps the overall movement of your whole body (remember, the ankle joint is the base of your body) and helps PROTECT the knees, hips and low back from injury.
- Improved Speed, Agility and Quickness – a healthy strong ankle will perform better in sports & life.
- Increased Strength and Stability in the ankles – overall balance and coordination improves significantly with healthy ankles.
- Lower Risk of Future Injury without Ankle Braces – you won’t need inhibiting ankle braces that slow you down and weaken your ankles, while also putting your knees at risk of ACL and MCL injuries.