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We often think of a sprain as a trivial thing, and start doing sport again as soon as the pain stops. I’ve just been through this experience myself, and I’d like to pass on to you the results of my thoughts and research. Of course I’m not a doctor, but I can tell you what happened to me, and what I’ve found out.
The RICE protocol
So, I sprained my ankle.
If you think you may have a sprain, immediately after the incident, medical advice is to apply the RICE protocol. The four letters stand for Rest, Ice (put ice on it), Compression (of the affected area) and Elevation (keep the leg raised using cushions or similar). Above all, though, go and see a doctor who will carry out or arrange for the necessary examinations. A sprain is never trivial, and sportspeople often have to live with the after-effects of a sprain that was not properly managed.
Gradual return to physical activity
I do a lot of sport, and after a few days of enforced rest I wondered what to do about restarting. After a few more days, wouldn’t I lose the benefit of doing regular exercise? I found out that only a few years ago, prolonged rest was considered the only possible remedy for severe sprains. That’s still the case, but today the specialists agree that there should be a gradual return to physical activity during convalescence, so after a few days of complete rest I started doing physical things again, but observing some guidelines.
Using a “Stepper” before going back to running
I headed for the swimming pool to do a few lengths with a pull buoy (no, a pull buoy, not a pool boy!). It’s a kind of float that helps you limit your leg movements. I re-started weight training with exercises that work only the upper body. As soon as I felt able, and before going back to running on real surfaces, I did several days with a “stepper” machine. I started off stepping while sitting down, then standing up, and then I moved onto running on a treadmill. Already by this point, the sprain was just a bad memory. When I restarted doing all my usual sports activities, everything went well and my ankle, by now well recovered, was in good shape to cope with the future.
Better safe than sorry
Obviously, anybody can casually sprain something, just in an ordinary everyday situation, but when you do physical activity that amounts to more than a Sunday walk, there are two precautions worth taking. Wear suitable footwear for the activity (something which is ergonomically right for you), and start gently when you’re out of training.