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Training & advice

Simon Moyes' top tips on how to treat an ankle injury

Simon Moyes discusses the perils of running on icy roads in the winter months.

As summer fades into the background we runners need to start thinking about what lies ahead. The nights are getting longer, temperatures are lower - snow and ice may be just around the corner. Icy conditions on the roads can cause any number of accidents, so it is important you take extra care when hitting the streets.

Ankle sprains are the dread of all athletes and a single fall can mean months on the sidelines and months of training wasted.

If you are unfortunate enough to slip up, here is a guide to help you identify a sprain, whilst explaining how best to treat it.

Simon Moyes' guide on how to treat a sprained ankle

How does a sprain occur?

Sprains are caused by a violent twisting or the "giving way" of the lateral (outer) side of the ankle. If this happens and the ankle is forced beyond its comfortable range of movement, the ligaments are easily stretched or torn, causing what is commonly known as a sprain.

How do I know if I have an unstable ankle?

Common complaints include involuntary and repeated turning of the ankle, especially on uneven surfaces or following quick movements in sports. Symptoms often include - chronic discomfort and swelling, ongoing pain and tenderness with the ankle feeling unstable.

How do I ease the pain of ankle?

The R.I.C.E. Method of Acute Injury Treatment

If you find yourself with an injury you can follow the R.I.C.E method of acute injury treatment to ease the pain before seeking further medical attention.

Rest

Resting after injury is vital for the protection of the injured muscle, tendon, ligament or other tissue, as it provides the body with energy to heal the injury effectively.

Ice

Applying an ice pack, cool bag, cold compress or even a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a tea towel, can provide short term pain relief. It also reduces the blood flow to the injured area. You should not keep this applied for more than 15-20 minutes at a time.

Compression

Compression helps limit and reduce swelling. The simplest way to compress the area is to wrap an ACE bandage around the swollen part. If you experience throbbing, the wrap should be removed and reapplied with a looser grip.

Elevate

Supporting your ankle above the level of your heart helps reduce swelling and bruising. Mild pain relievers help with the discomfort, whilst anti-inflammatory medications can help ease pain and swelling.

What other Non-Surgical treatments are there?

Physical therapy: you may be given various treatments and exercises designed to strengthen the ankle, improve balance and range of motion and to retrain your muscles. It is also encouraged that you do movements that relate specifically to your activities or sport.

Bracing: You may be told to wear an ankle brace for support and to keep the ankle straight. The support will also help prevent further injuries whilst the ligaments are healing.

Medication: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs - pronounced en-saids) may be prescribed to reduce pain and inflammation.

If the ankle does not respond to non-surgical treatment (orthotics, supportive footwear, physiotherapy), or if there is intra-articular damage, surgery may be recommended.

When will I be able to return to running?

It will take 4-6 weeks for a return to the previous level of fitness, depending on the extent of the sprain.

Solid rehabilitation will help strengthen the muscles around the ankle and "retrain" the tissues within the ankle that affect balance. Failure to do this may result in repeated ankle sprains.

If your sprained ankle does not heal properly, or you sprain your ankle repeatedly, this may result in chronic ankle instability. The subsequent constant swelling in the ankle can cause a reflex in the body that 'switches off' the muscles around the joint, thus reducing stability even further.

Ankle instability often develops after repeated ankle sprains and is common among athletes as well as others. It usually occurs whilst you are walking on uneven ground or doing other sports.

How do I find out more?

If you have a question about arthroscopy/keyhole surgery please leave a comment in the box below or email simonmoyes@simonmoyes.com, call 0207 323 0040 or visit www.simonmoyes.com and www.ankle-arthroscopy.co.uk.