It may not seem that dangerous to climb around the buttes at Papago Park, but whenever you hike on rocky terrain, you risk twisting your ankle. An injury like this can be very painful and put a damper on your activities for some time. Healing from ankle sprains before putting weight on your foot again is crucial to avoiding chronic problems with the joint.
A sprain involves damage to the ligaments that hold your ankle joint together. These ligaments can be stretched or torn, and walking on them before they have regained their normal strength can lead to repeated sprains and ankle instability in the future. Here are the basic steps for recovering from ankle sprains:
- Protection – The first thing you need to do is stop walking on that foot. Rest with your foot above heart level to reduce swelling. Wrapping the ankle in a compression bandage and using ice packs as directed will help numb the pain and keep swelling down as well. If the sprain is severe, we may have you wear a protective boot or cast for a while to hold the joint stable.
- Restoring motion – Once the pain, swelling and stiffness have decreased and the ligaments are healing, we will show you how to gradually start moving your foot to regain full range of motion in your ankle. Be patient, and don’t try to move too quickly or you may reinjure the ligaments.
- Exercise and return to activity – Once the joint has healed, exercises restore strength to your joint, and you can start putting weight on the foot again. We’ll let you know when it is safe to do this. Don’t rush back to activity too soon, or you risk a setback and chronic weakness of the ligaments. A simple sprain will need at least a couple of weeks to heal before you resume sports activities. One where the ligaments have torn may keep you sidelined for several weeks to several months.