It is common to experience an ankle sprain because your ankle joint helps maintain your balance and is quite susceptible to sprains. A ligament in your ankle joins bones to each other, but over-stretching can cause this ligament to tear. This results in an ankle sprain. Once a sprain occurs, you may have to wait for weeks to return to your normal activities. Luckily there are homecare measures to resolve the issue as soon as possible and help you return to running.
Can You Run on a Sprained Ankle?
No, running on a sprained ankle is never a good idea. Sprained ankle is more likely to occur when you run on uneven ground as your foot is likely to roll inward while running on such surfaces. Even if you have a minor sprain, you should still take a break from running because you can aggravate your injury with the weight and stretch put on the ankle. It is true that your body will do what is necessary to heal your injury, but you need to create the right environment for healing to take place. That is why it is important to give your ankle as much rest as possible and not run on a sprained ankle.
When Can You Return to Running?
The severity of your injury usually determines the rate of your recovery, but you also need to stick to your rehabilitation plan to accelerate recovery. Here is more about the time you need to recover depending on the severity of your injury:
Grade I Sprain (Mild)
You get microscopic tear in the ligament fibers when you experience a grade-I sprain. There may also be mild tenderness along with swelling around your ankle. With this type of strain, you usually need to take a few days off from your regular activities. You can return to running in a few days with a brace.
Grade II Sprain (Moderate)
You have a grade-II sprain if you have partially torn the ligament and have moderate swelling around the ankle. Your doctor will move your ankle joint to notice any abnormal looseness, which is another indication of a grade-II sprain. Running on a sprained ankle in this case is not allowed. Wait for at least 2-3 months for your ankle to recover completely from a grade-II sprain.
Grade III Sprain (Severe)
In this type of sprain, you have complete tear of the ligament with significant swelling around the ankle joint. There will be substantial instability when your doctor pushes or pulls on the ankle joint. It may take up to 4 months to recover from a grade–III sprain, but you have to work with a physiotherapist to make sure that your ankle heals properly.
Signs You Are Ready to Run
You can start running again once you are sure that your ankle has full range of motion in all directions. Also, you need to ensure that the muscles around your ankle are now strong enough to keep you stable or else you will sustain another injury. Moreover, you should not experience any swelling or pain during or after activities like walking or standing. Be sure to confirm with your doctor before you restart running.
Ways to Speed Up Healing
Running on a sprained ankle can aggravate your condition, but you can always take steps to accelerate healing and return to your running routine once again. Here are some steps to take:
- Rest: You should take plenty of rest and walk with a cane or use crutches for support. Just ensure that you do not stop all types of physical activities – you can still try swimming or perform other low-impact exercises.
- Ice: Be sure to apply ice on your ankle to help control pain and swelling. Simply take a plastic bag full of ice and place it on your ankle for 20 minutes at a time. Do it 3-4 times a day to control swelling. Be sure to remove the ice if your ankle or foot looks white. Talk to your doctor first if you have inhibited circulation or diabetes.
- Compression: Use an elastic compression wrap during the first 24-36 hours to help reduce swelling. Ensure that the wrap is not too tight. If you experience problems like tingling, numbness, coolness, increased pain, or swelling around your ankle, it means you need to loosen the wrap or bandage.
- Elevation: Raise your ankle above your heart level for at least a couple of hours every day to decrease bruising and swelling.
2. Try Exercises to Improve Mobility
Instead of running on a sprained ankle, you should perform other exercises to improve mobility in your ankle first. You can try the following movements:
- Perform ankle circles using your toes to help improve mobility in your ankle joint. Avoid it if you still have a swollen ankle.
- Sit in a chair and keep your injured foot on the floor. Now, try to move your knee sideways for 2-3 minutes without lifting your foot from the floor.
3. Stretch Your Ligaments Properly
It is natural to have tight calf muscles when you suffer an ankle sprain. Therefore, you should stretch these muscles to regain some flexibility.
- Simply sit on the floor and extend your leg out in front of you.
- Now, take a towel and wrap it around the ball of your affected foot.
- Keep your knee straight and gently pull the towel toward you. Maintain this stretched position for 15 seconds, less if you experience any pain. Repeat 2-4 times.
4. Try Strengthening Exercises
Just like stretching, strengthening your ankle is very important. You can start these exercises once you do not notice any swelling.
With your foot flat on the ground, push it toward a wall and hold the stretch for 5-6 seconds.
- Sit in a comfortable position with your feet on the floor. Take an exercise band and wrap it around the outsides of your ankle. Now, gently push your injured ankle away from your uninjured foot.
- Simply sit down and keep your feet together on the floor. Now, gently push your injured foot toward your other foot and hold the stretch for about 6 seconds.
5. Improve Your Balance
Along with doing some stretching and strengthening exercises, you also need to perform certain movements that help improve your balance. You can do it simply by standing on your injured foot and lifting your good foot off of the ground. It is okay to extend to your arms out to your side to help maintain your balance.