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The Importance of Sprain Aftercare

Written by Courteney

Posted on August 22, 2016 at 1:10 am

When you sustain a sports related sprain or accidental roll of the ankle, it is tempting to just shrug it off and keep chugging along like nothing has happened. However, there can be serious and even long-term repercussions for taking a laissez faire attitude toward a sprain or strain.

What is a “Sprain”?

A sprained ankle or wrist means the ligaments (bands of tissue that connect your bones together) have been wretched to the point of stretching or even tearing. This can cause significant swelling and bruising, leaving the area around the affected joint painful for days, weeks or longer. You’ve probably heard someone say before that “ligaments take longer to heal than broken bones”, well there is definitely some truth to this maxim. Especially since people who break a bone are often fitted with a cast and therefor have no choice but to let the injury heal properly, whereas sprains and strains are often not casted or allotted adequate healing time.

Poorly Healed Sprains Remain Problematic

Most people don’t seek medical attention to ensure it is in fact a minor sprain, settling with icing the area temporarily and perhaps a day or two of resting before continuing on as normal even if pain and swelling persists. In cases of mild sprains this may be fine, but this minimalist approach to healing is subpar when it comes to more serious sprains. Mishandled sprains create a weak spot that is extra vulnerable to even the slightest future injury. According to Dr. Brian Abelson of Calgary, Canada, “A sprain may also result in damage to other structures. You may also experience damage to connective tissue, tendons, muscles, and even to the bones (possible fractures). This is why it is important to see a medical professional who can determine exactly which structures have been injured, and then provide treatment recommendations”.

Sprain Dos and Don’ts

It can be just as important to avoid certain actions after a sprain as it is to perform helpful ones. Future treatment and long-term discomfort may also be avoided given the proper attention at the time of (and after) the injury.


  • Ice the injury in 10-15 minute intervals a few times daily.
  • Rest as much as possible with your injury elevated.
  • Compressing the injury with medical wrap may help reduce swelling.
  • Have your injury assessed (right away is best, but if you choose to play the waiting game, you should go to the doctor within a couple days if the injury doesn’t improve upon resting and icing).
  • Wear ankle or wrist braces after the injury is healed when engaging in activity like sports to prevent additional damage to the site.


  • Perform any activities (or even weight-bearing) until you know the status of your injury – is it sprained? Just strained? Or perhaps broken?
  • Drink alcohol for at least 72 afters post-injury as it is a blood thinner and may increase swelling or bleeding.
  • Heat the injury – this can also increase swelling, heat is generally better for long-term injuries such as an arthritic joint or chronic back pain, not for immediate, acute injuries (unless directed by a medical professional).
  • Massage a fresh injury – this can cause damage to the newly irritated tissues, muscles and ligaments. Massage may be useful after the injury is healed.

When to See The Doc

If you’ve tried icing and resting for a few days and still have significant swelling and pain, don’t risk pushing it past the point of healing correctly, check your sprain out with a doctor. He or she may order an MRI to determine the extent of damage to your ligaments and tendons and treat the injury accordingly. We only get one body each, no returns or trade-sies – so expend the necessary effort to take care of injuries as best you can so the they don’t follow you. Thanks for visiting DocChat! If you have any health questions, our qualified, board certified physicians are here 24/7/365!

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