Ways to Prevent Ankle Pain and Get Around
Splints, canes and other ways to get around with ankle pain.
Many ankle injuries can be treated simply at home with over the counter (OTC) nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) and naproxen (Aleve). If you cannot tolerate NSAIDs or you are already taking anti-inflammatories for arthritis, however, contact your doctor before taking an OTC pain-reliever.
Within 48 hours of the injury, you should also begin self-care measures. Use the acronym RICE to help remember these treatments:
- Rest. Take a break from activity. Avoid walking on your injured ankle.
- Ice. Place an ice pack on your ankle for 15 to 20 minutes at a time to reduce pain and swelling.
- Compression. Wrap a compression bandage around the ankle to reduce swelling.
- Elevation. As much as possible, keep your foot elevated to reduce swelling. Use a stool when sitting at your desk or place your foot on pillows when relaxing on the couch.
Whether you have an acute injury or chronic arthritis, medications don't always relieve pain completely. And if you have surgery, you'll likely need some help getting around while you heal. At times when you need extra help with pain relief or mobility, here are some techniques and devices worth trying.
Hot and cold. While cold is helpful for reducing inflammation from a new ankle injury, it also can be helpful for chronic pain or for the pain and inflammation of an arthritis flare. For aching ankles without acute inflammation, heat may provide relief.
Canes. If placing weight on your ankle causes pain, your doctor or physical therapist may recommend a cane. There are many different types of canes. The most common type has a single tip, but if you have trouble balancing, your doctor may recommend a quad, or four-point cane. Your doctor can advise the best way to use your cane, but generally you should hold it in the hand opposite the painful ankle.
Ankle Braces. Ankles braces can support the ankle during recovery from an injury or surgery or help reduce the risk of re-spraining a sprained ankle. Braces fall into two basic categories – rigid and functional. Rigid braces immobilize the entire ankle, while functional braces allow some movement. There are many variations on each of the different types.
Electrical Stimulation. Electrical stimulation of muscle tissue (called neuromuscular electrical stimulation) around the ankle may be useful for strengthening the muscles that support the joint and relieving pain in and around the joint. A number of studies have shown the treatment to be effective, however, studies have focused specifically on the treatment for knee osteoarthritis.
Weight Loss. Because the ankles bear the weight of the body, excess body weight can put more stress on ankles, leading to or worsening ankle pain. Weight loss, in turn, may help reduce ankle pain.