A few weeks ago, I sprained my right ankle on a trail run. I was running downhill on uneven terrain. The trail slanted to the right and my right foot rolled outward. I have rolled my ankle on this trail before, but this one was different. I heard a pop and there was immediate discomfort. This occurred two weeks before the San Jose Race, so I knew I had to be very efficient in my rehabilitation. Below is my experience, however, if you unfortunately sprain your ankle contact a licensed professional to receive an expert opinion. This is just what worked for me. In addition, I determined my sprain was a grade I sprain or a mild one. This includes overstretched lateral ligaments and in some cases small terrors within them.
When I sprained my ankle I was a few miles away from where I could get a ride home. So, I had to walk to the pick up location. However, I iced my ankle as soon as I got home. The ice helped with reducing the swelling, as well as the pain. I did 10 minutes on and 10 minutes off around 5 times throughout the day. When I iced it, I also elevated my ankle above my heart, which helped with the swelling as well. During this time I rested the ankle as much as possible.
Overall on the first day, ice the ankle ASAP, elevate and minimize movement.
During the rest of the week, the main goal was to stimulate the healing process and maintain my fitness.
The ligaments have a low blood supply, therefore making the healing process longer. Depending on my pain I would move my ankle around to stimulate blood flow. A great series of movements is trying to write each letter in the alphabet with your big toe. I also wore a compression bandage to further stimulate blood flow. During the periods in between the icing sessions I would perform these movements.
In the morning and night I would foam roll my ankle. In high school my assistant basketball coach, Jordan, taught me this routine and it did wonders. You roll the injured ankle from all angles. On each roll try to go a quarter the way up on the shin. The angles include lateral, medial, posterior, and anterior on the right and left side of the tibia. The lateral roll directly gets blood flow to my injured ligaments, while the other rolls help with soothing the surrounding muscles, ligaments and tendons that are picking up the slack of the injured ligaments, tendons and muscles. Overall the routine helped increase blood flow and got rid of all the gunk that is produced by the injured area.
Every night I would apply tiger balm to my injured ankle. I would apply it to the entire ankle on both sides. This would help the injured area as well as the ankle components picking up the slack. The tiger balm alleviated the pain and allowed me to perform a larger range of motion. You can find tiger balm on amazon here.
Furthermore, whenever I needed to walk on the ankle I would wear a brace. I used the McDavid ankle brace. You can find it on amazon here. I had it from previous sprained ankles from basketball.
Since the San Jose race was right around the corner I knew I had to work out somehow. It was still painful to run and even walk so I rode a stationary bike to minimize impact on my ankle. I essentially performed the same running routine as I normally do, but on the bike. Though, I did account for the bike’s faster speed. And since I base my runs on heart rate, the only thing to change was the distance travelled. You can find my heart rate training here. The bike not only got my heart rate up, but it also increased blood flow to my ankle. I rode the bike with the brace at first even though I didn’t think I needed it. In addition, I was still able to perform my lifting sessions, but I always wore the brace for ankle stability.
After the first week I stopped icing the ankle and began using heat. Whether it was a heating pad or a epsom salt bath. In my previous post I discuss the benefits of epsom salt baths, here. The heat adds to the increase of blood flow to the injured area. I still performed the alphabet with my ankle, foam rolled it every morning and night and applied tiger balm.
This was when I first felt comfortable running on my ankle. I always ran with the brace and did not hold back. My main goal was to not favor my left ankle, to reduce chances of another injury. Definitely start the running at your own pace. I may have went to hard at first and got lucky. In addition I started not using the brace during my lifting sessions. I wanted my ankle rely less on the brace and strengthen accordingly.
Overall I kept my fitness up, while adding the heat element to further progress in the healing process.
By now my ankle was probably at 90%. Under my impression it is hard to get the next 10% because that requires time with the ankle exercises. I remained foam rolling, applying tiger balm as well as fitting in a epsom salt bath when I could.
At 90% my ankle felt great. I began running without the ankle brace. I was definitely more sore than usual after runs. But I took that as a sign it was strengthening.
During the last couple days before the race I added in some balance training. I would stand on one foot for about a minute for multiple sets. I did it for both feet as well. And to further burden my ankles I closed my eyes. You can really tell the lack of strength in the injured ankle. This balance training was a great way to train for the usual uneven terrain in a Spartan Race.
On the day of the race I knew I needed some extra support on the ankle. I didn’t want to use the brace because of the extra weight it would add when it would get wet. So, I used kinesiology tape. And I used both brands, KT tape and Rocktape. They were light weight and very effective. In the end I got 5th place in the San Jose Race. I discuss the race more in detail here.
I was extremely happy with the outcome of my ankle recovery, but I still have some recovery to do. I hope my experience can help those of you who go through the event of a sprained ankle!
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