First of all, you have to respect and understand the body’s natural healing process if you want to fully recover from an ankle injury…
Step 1 of the healing process is inflammation and 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 sprain, the injured area 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 healing an ankle sprain. So, in a nut shell, rest is good, but too much rest is NOT good.
Why? 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.
That’s why these studies are now showing that an ankle 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:
- They can be painful for months or even years
- They are at a high risk of re-injury
- They can negatively affect other areas of the body (i.e., knees, hips and low back)
So, healing an injury 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 injury 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 ankle rehab as soon as possible, but just wait until it heals first.)