5 Ways to Speed Sprained Ankle Recovery

Friday 5POP! OWWW! As your body hits the ground after you fall off of a rock while cross training, and you know damn well your ankle is badly sprained, you can’t help but being pissed. At least I couldn’t. Hi, my name is Molasses, and I have a problem. No, it’s not alcohol. I can drink just fine, thankyouverymuch. It’s the sprained ankle that sidelined me just after I decided to go for a 1:45 in a summer half-marathon. It’s the sprained ankle that derailed my if-I-can-pull-off-a-1:45-in-this-summer’s-half-marathon-then-I’m-ready-to-start-training-for-a-BQ plans (okay “plans” is a strong word, maybe idea is more fitting).

Seriously, it could be way worse. I’ve had a lot of real life, grownup-style problems to deal with lately, and this teeny weeny setback really doesn’t matter, in the grand scheme. In fact, it’s a great opportunity for me to focus on some cross training, and focus on ankle strength in general.ย  A physical therapist friend of mine gave me some good tips to combine with the vast wealth of information available on the Internet, and since I’m so sweet I’m going to share those tips with you!

Glass Ankle in Ice
You can also use the old ice-cubes-leaking-onto-your-couch method. (img via Glen Bowman on flickr)

1. Chill. With ice, seriously, like right away. Not only that, but apparently an ice bath is in order. Ice baths only work if you use the right chant to go with them. I go full on for the drama, and make sure to give a big warrior woman yell every time I submerge my foot and ankle in that ice cold bucket of water, but you could come up with a catch phrase too. “Holy-mother-of-God-that’s-cold” might work well. But be diligent in your catch phrase application – if you forget to say your catch phrase when you put your foot in an ice bath, it’s sort of like missing your birth control pill. You might wind up pregnant (don’t ask me to explain the science behind that).

2. Elevation. If your physical therapist friend catches you sitting in a chair with your newly developed black and blue cankle resting on the ground during a soccer tournament, it might just cause her to say something like, “elevate, don’t keep it down, you know – like you’re doing right now.” And when you casually mention that you feel like you just got in trouble, she might tell you how hard it is to work with patients who claim to want to heal but refuse to do what they’re told. After that, you should probably spend the rest of tournament with your foot up on an adjacent chair, in case she walks by.

Sesame street character cupcakes
I might totally reach for these instead of cookies… (Photo credit: Frosted with Emotion)

3. Sesame Street. This one is multi purpose. Not only will you get to feel kinship with Oscar the Grouch as you grouse around about your ill fortune and Snuffy as you bemoan your involuntarily reorganized priorities, but Cookie Monster will remind you that – since you can’t go for a run – you may as well eat cookies. In the midst of all of that bonding, you can rest, ice and elevate your cankle, and if you can bear it you can even trace the ABC’s in the air with your big toe after Big Bird reminds you what order the letters go in. No, I’m serious. Even Competitor.com, Runner’s World and the American Family Physician recommend it. I may have heard it from a physical therapist once or thrice, as well.

Today’s post is brought to you by the Letters S and R, and the number 5.


4. Give your ankle a hug. An ACE bandage works well for this, watch proper wrapping techniques here and proper rapping techniques here. Don’t try to bounce around the stage until your ankle is feeling better, though. According to my physical therapist friend, KT tape helps with the lymphatic system, and eliminates swelling and bruising. She recommended that I just place a strip wherever the bruising is and leave it 48 hours. Admittedly, I haven’t tried it yet, but there are also instructional videos on the KT website for taping up your sprained ankle. I went out and bought a brace from a local sporting goods store, and I definitely feel more stable and less wobbly when I’m wearing it than when I’m not.

5. Put down the cookies and reach for the M.E.A.T. Ginger wrote this great article about how recovery focused exercise can help you heal more quickly. This approach involves Movement and Exercise– as in practice your ABC’s, do ankle rotations, toe scrunches and heel raises as you can bear them, and work in some no-impact cross training like bike rides or some of Jay Johnson’s strength work (Vanilla recommends his MYRTL routine). The A stands for Analgesia, go for Tylenol over the good ole’ Vitamin I, which can inhibit healing, and the last step is Treatment.ย The treatment step can mean going through the previous four and a half steps presented here, or going to see a doctor or sports chiropractor. The take away is that you should take care of yourself, but don’t spend all of your time on the couch watching Sesame Street and eating cookies.

What are your tried and true methods of injury recovery?

A 30-something runner striving to hit that ever-elusive BQ. Mother of two young teens, fan of fantasy/fiction/sci-fi (<-read: geek), with a fascination for tortoises and a love of the outdoors.

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  1. This just happened to me Monday (darn Comcast truck parked ON the sidewalk). Luckily, there was no swelling, and today is my first pain-free day. Hopefully, I’ll be back running tomorrow! I will definitely take your advice and start doing more ankle-strengthening exercises.
    PS- the “woe-is-me cookie craving” should be recognized as a real medical diagnosis.