If you run, hike or walk chances are you've sprained your ankle before before you recognize how painful and annoying it can be. Sprains can derail your fitness routine, sports activities or worse and the faster you can heal the better. So what should you do for a sprained ankle to speed recovery and get back to normal as soon as possible? In this post you'll find out exactly what a sprain is, what to do for a sprained ankle and how to protect against them.

What is a Sprain?
Ligaments, which are an elastic structure, keep the ankle bone and joints in place. Their primary function is to protect the ankle from abnormal movement. When working properly, ligaments stretch within their limits after which they return to a normal position.

A sprain happens any time a ligament is extended beyond it's normal limit. In extreme cases, ligament fibers may actually tear. The amount of force applied when you sprain your ankle related to the severity or grade of the sprain.

The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, distinguishing the different severity grades of sprains and some of the symptoms associated with them as follows:

Grade 1 -Minimal tenderness and swelling
Grade 2 – Moderated tenderness and swelling, decreased range of motion, possible instability
Grade 3 – Significant swapping and tenderness instability

* American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons

What to do for a Sprained Ankle
It's always best to consult your physician when you suffer a sprain to be sure it's not a serious tear or that you have not broken a bone.

For a grade 1 sprain many, including the AAOS, recommend RICE

R = Rest. Stay off your ankle as much as possible to let it heal.
I = Ice. Apply ice for 20 -30 minutes three times more a day to help keep the swelling down.
C = Compression. Wrap your ankle with compression bandages to support it and keep it moving while healing.
E = Elevate your ankle above your knee whenever you can.
For a grade 2 sprain your doctor may also want to provide you with a splint or other device to support and immobilize your ankle further beyond recommending RICE

For a grade 3 sprain your doctor may consider a cast in order to ensure proper immobilization for longer healing.

How to Prevent Sprains

To prevent sprains:

  • stretch and warm up before each run or hike;
  • stay focused on the trail and look for obstacles and uneven surfaces;
  • be aware of your own body and slow down or stop if you begin feeling pain;
  • wear the appropriate shoes or boots to ensure you have proper support.

Coping with a sprain is no fun but as a runner, hiker and active person you may have to at some point. Being able to treat a sprayer initially with Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation can help get you back on the trail faster with an ankle that's cured and in good shape.