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Should you walk on a sprained ankle?

red mark showing ankle injury on a bare leg

It’s easy to take our mobility for granted. For instance, should your car be off the road, it’s likely you’ll feel bereft at its loss and horrified at the thought of using public transport when you’re used to the freedom of simply getting in your car and driving wherever you need to go, whenever you want to go.

It’s a similar story with our feet. If you had to track exactly how many minutes/hours in the day you’re on them—even if you consider yourself to be sedentary…e.g. an office worker who sits at a desk all day—you’d be surprised at the final figure.

Now imagine being ‘laid up’, as we sometimes call it. Imagine having to rest your feet for a few days and experiencing a terrible shooting pain whenever you shift your weight onto them. It’s one thing to dream of a few days doing nothing but sitting about, but when it’s forced upon you, it feels quite different. Even if you haven’t run, danced, hopped or skipped for years, you may suddenly have the urge to do so, because, in the back of your mind, you know you can’t!

So, what’s the current advice for a sprained ankle? For instance, it used to be the case that you stayed in hospital for two weeks after having a baby in the 1960s; and the advice up until recently, if you put your back out, was to have complete bed rest. Neither course of action would be recommended by medical practitioners today (unless in extreme circumstances, of course). In 2022, many women leave hospital within hours of their baby’s birth, and light movement (no lifting) is encouraged with a back/muscle injury after a few days’ rest, providing no further pain is felt when doing so.

sprained ankle resting on blue foot support

When it comes to a sprained ankle, resting it as much as you can during the 48 hours following injury is common advice…if only to protect the ankle and foot from further damage—should they not be able to support you, for example, you could cause yourself an even greater injury.

In response to any swelling, a cold compress is recommended, which will cause your blood vessels to constrict and any inflammation to subside. It’s also advised with a sprained ankle that you elevate the affected foot as much as you can in the first couple of days after injury. This helps any fluid that builds up to drain away from the site of the sprain.

There’s a handy acronym to remember if you do succumb to a bad sprain: RICE. This stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.

Unless there’s some suspicion of a broken bone (perhaps if the ‘sprain’ doesn’t heal in the timeframe expected, or there’s an excessive amount of pain and/or swelling), most doctors won’t order an X-ray. However, if your sprain is causing you any worry, it’s worth popping in to see us. As podiatrists, we can carry out a thorough check of your ankle, your foot, and all the associated tendons and ligaments, and advise treatment accordingly.

Call Treat Your Feet on 01226 492412 (Wombwell) or 0113 238 0330 (Morley).


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