Everything you know about treating ankle sprains may be wrong

Sprained ankles. Painful, swollen, bruised into many shades of purplish blue. This probably sounds familiar as does the usual treatment method: Rest-Ice-Compression-Elevation (R.I.C.E.). But what if I told you R.I.C.E. was not your best option?

Gabe Mirkin, the M.D. who coined the term R.I.C.E., has long admitted he was incorrect. Resting and icing actually delays healing which, he realized, can cause the injury to linger and prevent patients from getting back to their athletic and daily activities. 

So, what should be done? At Oak Point, we take a holistic approach:

During the acute (beginning) stages when the ankle is swollen, inflamed, and most painful, the P.R.I.C.E. is right. Protect-Rest-Ice-Compression-Elevation. What we mean by “protect” is, for example, wearing a brace to prevents the ankle from rolling again during rehabilitation exercises. Yes, exercises. Complete rest would not only cause scar tissue to form but also facilitate issues like inhibition or weakness of the muscles that stabilize the ankle. So, gentle movement is strongly suggested right from the start.

At this early stage, with the joint still quite swollen, the patient will start rehab exercises on the non-affected ankle. Research shows that by doing so, the body actually accelerates the healing process of the injured ankle due to a cross-over pattern. Writing the alphabet with the injured ankle using your toes is also very good because it is non-weight bearing and will help restore the stability as well as decrease swelling. 

Acupuncture and Kinesio taping are a perfect combination throughout the ankle sprain rehabilitation process. They help accelerate the healing process, reduce swelling, decrease pain, restore motor weakness of muscles, and improve strength as well as stability to the joint.  

Once the inflammation and pain have reduced, we can target the sprained ankle with more challenging exercises and stretches. This will ensure both stability and strength are restored. Balance exercises are also crucial at this stage because they’ll improve proprioception and thus prevent any future sprains. Activities on a BOSU ball are great and should be incorporated into the rehabilitation program. 

For more information on how to treat sports injuries naturally, feel free to contact us and we’ll be happy to help! 


Written by Dimitri Boules LAc, LMT, CPE, CPT