Why can’t I just use rest and ice??
After a sprained ankle, everyone makes the same mistake… They think to themselves, ‘I’ll just rest and ice it until it feels better.’ But, what if I told you that’s actually the worst thing you could do? I know, it sounds counter-intuitive to some degree, but the research is very conclusive about this point. As long as you do not have a fracture of some kind and it’s just ligament damage (any kind of typical sprained ankle, grades 1 – 3), the faster you start doing ankle rehab, the faster and better you will heal.
On the surface, R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression, elevation) makes sense. Right after your ankle injury, the area swells up and pain sets in, making it hard to walk. Ice feels good and helps with the pain. Rest also feels good, because your ankle is throbbing. But, after a few minutes, the pain returns, so you have to keep icing for temporary relief. And then, on top of all that, bruising sets in too. It’s a frustrating and painful injury.
But, underneath all that, the body goes into overdrive in the first 48 hours. It sends in a few waves of powerful immune cells, called Macrophages. Their job is to clean out all the trash and debris from the injury and then re-build healthy muscle, tissue, etc. It’s brilliant, but invisible. You can’t see it. You can’t feel it, but it’s happening behind the scenes. So, the best thing you can do is try and support this fundamental immune response to an injury (hint, hint – ankle rehab).
Meanwhile, you are laying there and icing your ankle. Here’s the problem… ice completely disrupts and stops the body’s natural immune response to an injury. But hey, don’t believe me, check out the research here. Basically, ice stops the flow of Macrophages and can reverse the flow of lymphatic drainage, which means your body will NOT be able to get those powerful immune cells into your injured ankle and clean it out. And, it won’t be able to properly rebuild the ankle back to full health.
As for rest, obviously you have to rest your ankle to a certain degree, but if your ankle is almost completely immobile, the main risk is that it will heal very stiff and weak. You will NOT regain your ankle’s natural range of motion, strength and stability pre-injury. Rest is a part of the solution, but your body needs some gentle and specific movement in order to heal fully and fast.
The #1 Reason to do Ankle Rehab
You’ll heal FASTER!
Yep, a lot faster! The healing time for rest and ice is a minimum of 4-8 weeks. And most people still have very weak and stiff ankles afterward. They tend to keep re-injuring them and after a little while, they notice a substantial drop in their athletic performance and basic ability to move without pain.
With a really good ankle rehab program, you can expect to heal your ankle in about 3-7 days. Fortunately, an ankle injury is usually not super serious. The problem is that if you do not heal it properly, the injury lingers… in many cases, the ankle can stay weak and painful for years. And that’s when it becomes far more serious, because it can affect the way you walk and run, which will affect your knees, hips, etc…
So, a great ankle rehab program will get your ankles functional and pain free in about a week. If it’s a more serious injury (like a grade 3 sprain), it could take a few weeks, but hey, that’s a lot better than months or years!!
The #2 Reason to do Ankle Rehab
You’ll heal BETTER!
It’s great to heal fast, but it’s even better to heal fully. That means your ankle will be strong, stable and have healthy range of motion. Instead of being weak and stiff, you’ll be able to get back to doing all the things you love, with NO pain or inhibition.
Actually, many people who do a great ankle rehab program find that their ankles are better off than they were before the injury. By rehabilitating and strengthening your ankles, it will improve your speed, agility, jumping ability, balance, and more.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a professional athlete (I’m looking at you LeBron) or someone who just likes take long walks… we all take thousands of steps a day and we need our ankles to be healthy.
Many people have found us after they’re in bad shape. It’s not just their ankles that are in trouble. They have knee pain or hip pain. Their posture is all out of whack. And the root cause is the simple fact that they cannot walk or move correctly and that puts strain and pressure on every other joint higher up in the body.
So, taking care of your ankles, which are the base of your body and what ensure you can walk, run and jump safely are pretty important. So, if they’re weak or injured, take the time to show them some love with a good ankle rehab program. It will pay huge dividends for you.
The #3 Reason to do Ankle Rehab
Significant ankle protection from re-injury!
After the ankle injury, you’re going to eventually get to a point where you get back to your life. Ankle rehab will help get you there much quicker and better, but eventually, you should be able to start doing what you love again either way. Of course, without rehab, your ankle may still bother you and inhibit your movement, but you’ll probably at least be able to get back to your life. Here’s the BIGGEST issue… are you going to re-injure that ankle and start all over again?
And keep in mind, every time you re-injure the same ankle, it gets worse. It gets harder to heal it fully. It gets weaker and weaker and more prone to re-injury, like a vicious cycle. If you’ve hurt your ankle multiple times, you already know this.
So, making sure your ankle is strong and healthy is your best bet to protect it. I’m not talking about ankle braces (which I do NOT like – see here for why) or tape or wraps. They are crutches that will keep your ankles weak and immobile. I’m talking about getting your ankles back to the point of full health and even beyond that, to the point where they are so strong that you will bounce back very quickly or even instantly from a typical sprain. Your ankles will be so strong that they are able to withstand much more force than a typical ankle. Your ankles will be more protected than someone with ankle braces and it will be all natural!!
So look, if you have weak or injured ankles, my very strong recommendation is that you follow a rock solid ankle rehab program. It just works SO much better than rest and ice. And it’s 100% worth the time, because it will enable you to do the things you love in life without pain. And there’s no substitute for that!