Sprained Ankle Treatment – How to Heal an Ankle Sprain
When you first sprain an ankle, the injury will expand a lot. It will also bruise within the first few hours and most likely become very stiff and immobile. Depending on how bad you sprain it, you may not be able to put any pressure on it at all, or you may be able to walk with a limp. Either way, you will need to something to enhance your chance for a quick and complete recovery. If you do nothing, your sprained ankle could take months to heal and you may continue to have pain for a very long time.
So, what should you do first? Well, there are two sprained ankle treatment options obtainable to you. The first is called R.I.C.E. It indicates you should rest and ice your ankle, keep some compression like a wrap on it and keep it elevated. It indicates you should continue to do this until you are healed. The second option is known as H.E.M. This ankle treatment indicates you should ice your ankle for the first 2 days, but also use more active rehab techniques including some very specific exercises, stretches and a few other healing methods. In short, one is non-active and the other is active. Which one works better? Let’s take a closer look…
According to H.E.M., you should ice the ankle just as in R.I.C.E., but with one big difference. H.E.M. indicates you only ice the ankle for the first 36-48 hours. (R.I.C.E. indicates you ice the ankle indefinitely until healed or until the swelling is gone, which can take weeks or months). What is the ice for anyway? Ice is used to help contain and reduce swelling. So, which way is better?
Interestingly, recent research has shown that ice is only effective for the first 48 hours after a sprained ankle. After that, it has not been shown to be clinically effective at reducing swelling. consequently then, it does make more sense to ice the ankle as H.E.M. advises and then move on to other healing methods.
The next difference between RICE and HEM is the subject of rest. RICE indicates rest until the ankle is healed. HEM differs greatly from RICE in this regard. Although HEM does suggest rest is an important part of healing, it does not believe that rest alone is the best way to heal an ankle. Instead, it contributes an active rehab program that entails a number of rare stretches and exercises in addition as a few other effective healing techniques. However, just as in RICE, you will nevertheless be resting your ankle most of the time, since, when you are not doing the rehab in HEM, this ankle treatment indicates you rest your ankle. But, the main difference is that HEM believes that active rehab is absolutely necessary for a quick and complete recovery versus rest alone.
Why does HEM insist on active rehab instead of pure rest? Well, research does suggest that there is usually extensive ligament damage in an ankle sprain. This method scar tissue can and usually does develop in addition as some neuromuscular damage (the ability for the brain to communicate with the ligaments in the ankle) in addition as general ligament weakness and stiffness. So, HEM goes about teaching you how to fully heal all this damage safely and correctly. And experts do agree that rest alone cannot remove or increasing rapidly scar tissue, it cannot heal neuromuscular damage and it cannot enhance range of motion of strength.
But, it is important to point out that HEM does not suggest any kind of dangerous movement or exercise. The exercises in HEM are very gentle, but powerful in helping the ankle safely regain its natural range of motion and strength. In addition, the stretches and exercises do also help reconnect the neuromuscular connection between the brain and ankle, so movement becomes smooth and safe again. And there are other techniques for helping you increasing rapidly the scar tissue. So, HEM looks to fully heal all the damage from the sprained ankle injury. But, does it work?
Well, a good indicator is which treatment heals ankles faster? According to people who have used HEM, they are walking typically again and without pain in about a week or less. And according to people who use RICE, the average healing time is about 4-8 weeks. This would suggest that the body does react much better to the active rehab treatment versus the non-active one.
But, what we feel is already more meaningful is the following: the number of future sprained ankles fell severely with the people who used HEM versus the people who use RICE. In other words, by strengthening the ankles and improving range of motion with HEM, people’s ankles were at a far lower risk of future ankle injury. We feel this is already more important than healing time, because it indicates that without a good, rehab program, the ankle is nevertheless at great risk of continually being injured and getting weaker and weaker over time.
So, in our opinion, HEM is a better and much more comprehensive treatment option than RICE. It seems to unprotected to better and longer lasting healing benefits than rest and ice alone.