Question:I tweaked an old ankle injury ice skating last night. There's quite a bit of swelling along the outside ankle bone. I know the swelling will go down on its own. Is there any real reason to get treatment for this?
Answer:Rest, ice, compression, and elevation is still the standard home treatment applied for mild to moderate ankle sprains. With severe sprains, immobilization with an air cast may be advised. The goal of treatment is to reduce swelling and speed recovery.
Many studies have shown that edema or swelling from inflammation can slow down healing. In fact, the rate of recovery is directly linked to the amount of swelling at the site of the injury. The more swelling there is, the slower the recovery rate.
Swelling also inhibits the muscle reflexes around the ankle. These responses are needed to prevent further injury or reinjury. Tiny receptors in the joint that measure ankle motion and direction can be damaged by edema. The sense of joint position called proprioception may not return to normal without treatment.
If you've injured this ankle before, you may need some outside help to get back to normal. A physical therapist can show you some exercises to help recover strength, coordination, and proprioception. Most often, a home program can be followed with minimal supervision for four to six weeks.Ivy O. W. Man, et al. Effect of Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation on Ankle Swelling in the Early Period After Ankle Sprain. In Physical Therapy. January 2007. Vol. 87. No. 1. Pp. 53-65.
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