A little over a week ago I was enjoying a hike in Algonquin Park with the Nakkertok ski team when I sprained my ankle. This definitely put a damper on the next few workouts, but on the plus side I now had a topic for my next XC Ottawa article! †I was also lucky to be able to speak to my brother in-law Wil Hunter about it. Heís a physiotherapist with Eramosa Physio in Orangeville. This article is a summary of the advice he kindly shared.
The view at the top of the Centennial Ridges trail in Algonquin, before injuring my ankle.
One week after the sprain my ankle was still looking pretty swollen with inflammation, although the bruising had mostly gone away.†
Inflammation is not necessarily a bad thing since it is how our body heals itself. Itís when the inflammation sticks around for too long that it can cause unnecessary discomfort and limit functionality. Although ice is commonly recommended to limit inflammation, its use is somewhat controversial, with uncertain benefits. Contrast therapy is a good recommendation. For this recovery method, alternate between applying heat and cold for a few minutes each, over 3 to 4 cycles. †
At this time of the year, a lake makes for a good ice bath!†
The heat application is nice and relaxing! FYI - I'm seen here reading Clara Hughes' new book ďOpen Heart, Open mindĒ - an intentional plug :)
An important part of recovering from an ankle sprain is to start early with balance exercises. Below I have described a progression of exercises that are useful for this. Iíd highly suggest doing these even if you havenít had an ankle injury.†
1. Balance on one foot for 20-30 seconds, using a wall or post for assistance.
2. Balance on one foot for 20-30 seconds without assistance.†
3. Balance on one foot for 20-30 seconds with your eyes closed. We use proprioception, vision, and our vestibular system to maintain balance - this exercise removes vision, challenging the other senses.†
4. Tie a stretchy exercise band around a post, strap it around your ankle, and step away from the post so that there is tension in the band. Stand on one foot. You should have to resist being pulled off balance by the band. Again, hold for 20-30 seconds.
† You can turn yourself so that the band pulls you in all 4 directions sequentially. I didnít have an exercise band, so I am using an old bike inner tube here.†
5. Catch a ball that is thrown off-center, to make you move for it a bit. This can be done with the help of a friend or by throwing the ball against a wall and catching it as it bounces back.†
A final note relates to pain education - the idea that how
we think about pain affects how we experience it and how an injury may progress.† In this case, I knew that getting back to
moderate activity shortly after injuring my ankle would be beneficial.† I was able to recognize that any pain was
non-threatening, and the functionality of my ankle improved with use.† On the other hand, excessive worry and rest
might have hindered the healing process.†††
Thanks for reading.†
Hopefully you donít sprain your ankle, but if you do, maybe these tips