Playing pickleball is a fantastic way to stay active and have fun, but it’s not without its risks, and one of the most common injuries pickleball players encounter is ankle sprains. Quick movements and sudden stops can lead to twisted ankles, leaving you in search of ways to heal and get back on the pickleball court.
Fortunately, there are several effective strategies to treat ankle sprains and expedite your recovery. Here are 10 tips to help you bounce back from an ankle sprain and return to pickleball with confidence.
Not all sprains are the same
The type and severity of your ankle sprain will play a significant role in determining the most effective treatment options for your recovery.
Physical Therapists are experts in assessing and grading sprains based on the extent of ligament tearing around the ankle. These gradings typically range from the least severe, known as Grade 1, to the most severe, which is Grade 3. Knowing the grade of your sprain is essential because it guides the treatment approach and helps set realistic expectations for recovery.
Before you embark on your own journey to recovery, it’s highly advisable to consider seeking professional guidance and potentially getting an X-ray. This is especially crucial if you find it impossible to bear weight on your foot or suspect a fracture. Fractures are serious injuries that require specific medical attention and treatment to prevent long-term damage.
10 Tips for Rapid Ankle Sprain Recovery
1. Give Yourself a Break
As pickleball enthusiasts, we’ve all heard the advice, “Just walk it off!” However, when it comes to newly sprained ankles, this advice should be taken with caution. Trying to push through the pain too soon can prolong your recovery and potentially damage your ligaments. It might even lead to a long-term weakness, making you more susceptible to future injuries.
In the initial days following your sprain, it’s essential to take it easy and minimize weight-bearing activities. Sometimes, staying completely off your feet may be necessary until you can walk with minimal pain. Consider using crutches or a stabilizing boot to reduce pressure on the affected joint.
2. Reduce Swelling
During the first few days after your ankle injury, your primary goal is to control your body’s natural inflammatory response and slow down cellular activity in the injured area. One effective way to achieve this is by applying ice for 20 minutes every hour for the first 2-3 days. This can significantly help reduce swelling.
Alternatively, you can explore Cryotherapy, which involves using a specialized system to deliver therapeutic cold to your ankle. Ankle-conforming wraps can ensure consistent cold application, allowing for deeper penetration into your ankle joints.
3. Secure with Compression
Another valuable method for reducing swelling and providing stability is compression. There’s a variety of compression products available, such as tensor bandages, braces, supports, and compression socks.
Among these options, an Ankle Brace stands out as the most effective for keeping your ankle secure. Ankle braces offer a balance between mobility and compression, allowing you to maintain some level of freedom while safeguarding your injured ankle. This is especially beneficial for those who can’t afford to remain immobile during recovery.
4. Elevate Your Feet
After a long day of pickleball, there’s nothing quite like putting your feet up. When dealing with an ankle injury, though, this practice becomes even more critical. Elevating your foot for the first three days post-injury can significantly help reduce inflammation in the affected joints. So go ahead and indulge in your favorite TV series while giving your feet some much-needed rest.
5. Responsible Pain Relief (if Necessary)
While a sprained ankle is generally not considered a severe injury, it can test your pain tolerance. If you find the discomfort unbearable, consider taking over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication.
These medications, such as Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), Naproxen Sodium (Aleve), or Acetaminophen (Tylenol), can offer temporary relief from pain and swelling.
However, always check for potential interactions with any other medications you may be currently taking. It’s essential to remember that these medications won’t heal your injured ankle; they merely alleviate the symptoms. Keep reading for more lasting approaches.
6. Explore Alternative Remedies
Who doesn’t enjoy a soothing bubble bath? Once you’ve managed to reduce the swelling, consider soaking your ankle in warm water with Epsom salt. Be cautious not to apply heat too early, as it can contribute to increased inflammation. Wait a few days before indulging in this pain-relieving ritual.
Epsom salt can work wonders in soothing sore muscles and alleviating discomfort in the connective tissues of your foot. You can soak your ankle once or twice a day as needed, and be prepared for some serious pain relief!
7. Natural Supplements and Topical Solutions (Essential Oils)
Waking up with a stiff and swollen ankle is never a pleasant way to start the day. If you prefer not to rely on medication, there are numerous natural options to explore, including essential oils.
Essential oils can be applied to the skin to help manage pain and reduce inflammation. Some popular oils known for their healing properties include:
For reducing swelling:
For pain relief:
8. Everyday Household Items as Topicals
Surprisingly, your kitchen pantry contains ingredients that can assist in reducing swelling. If you’re interested in trying a traditional poultice to aid in swelling reduction, consider using ingredients like turmeric, garlic, onion, castor oil, or olive oil.
Gently heat any of these ingredients and apply the mixture to your sprained ankle, then wrap it in a bandage for several hours. You’ll be amazed at the benefits that can be derived from these simple, everyday ingredients.
9. When Self-Treatment Isn’t Enough: Seek Physical Therapy
Despite your best efforts, if you still experience aches and pains in your ankle(s), it may be time to bring in a professional. Schedule an assessment with a Physical Therapist, who specializes in movement and rehabilitation. These experts can provide a precise diagnosis of what’s causing your pain and formulate a personalized recovery plan.
In addition to diagnosis, Physical Therapists prescribe exercises and stretches tailored to your specific condition. While we can’t provide a personalized exercise regimen here, we can offer some general movements that you can incorporate while awaiting your Physical Therapy appointment.
10. Harness the Power of Massage Therapy
Massage Therapy isn’t just for relaxation; it can also play a vital role in the treatment and rehabilitation of sprained ankles. Specifically, cross friction massage can assist in realigning newly formed scar tissue. The best part is that you can perform this type of massage yourself!
It’s advisable to begin cross friction massage around seven days after the sprain or when it can be done with minimal pain. Additionally, massaging your calf muscles can be beneficial. While it might seem counterintuitive, tight calf muscles can lead to early heel lift, which means more time spent on your forefoot and increased strain on the muscles in your feet.
Incorporate these self-massage techniques into your recovery regimen and watch the benefits unfold.
Prevent Future Injuries
Once you’ve healed, focus on injury prevention. Ensure you have proper pickleball shoes, protective gear, and equipment. Your shoes should fit comfortably and provide the necessary support for the game. Consider using an ankle brace to minimize the risk of future ankle sprains. Regular strength and mobility exercises can also help fortify your ankles and reduce the chances of reinjury.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for Ankle Sprain Recovery in Pickleball Players:
1. How do I know if my ankle sprain is severe enough to require professional medical attention?
- If you can’t bear weight on your foot or suspect a fracture, it’s crucial to seek immediate medical evaluation. X-rays may be necessary to rule out fractures, which require specialized treatment.
2. Can I continue playing pickleball with a mild ankle sprain?
- It’s not advisable to continue playing with any level of ankle sprain. Rest and proper recovery are essential to prevent exacerbating the injury or developing long-term weaknesses.
3. What’s the best way to reduce swelling in the initial days after an ankle sprain?
- Applying ice for 20 minutes every hour during the first 2-3 days is an effective way to reduce swelling. You can also explore Cryotherapy for deeper cold therapy.
4. How can I maintain ankle stability while recovering from a sprain?
- Ankle braces offer a balance between mobility and compression, providing stability while allowing some freedom of movement. They are highly recommended for pickleball players during the recovery period.
5. Are there any natural remedies to relieve pain and inflammation besides medication?
- Yes, natural remedies include warm Epsom salt soaks and essential oils like ginger, rosemary, peppermint, and lavender, which can be applied topically to reduce pain and swelling.
6. Can I return to pickleball as soon as the pain subsides?
- No, it’s essential to ensure your ankle is strong enough to handle the demands of pickleball before returning. Rushing back too soon can lead to reinjury.
7. What if I can’t tolerate the discomfort of the ankle sprain?
- If the pain becomes unbearable, over-the-counter pain relievers like Ibuprofen, Naproxen Sodium, or Acetaminophen can provide temporary relief. However, these should not be used as a long-term solution.
8. When is the right time to start self-massage and cross friction massage for scar tissue realignment?
- It’s generally recommended to begin self-massage and cross friction massage around seven days after the sprain, or when you can do so with minimal pain. Always consult with a healthcare professional for guidance.
9. Can I prevent future ankle sprains while playing pickleball?
- Wearing proper pickleball shoes, ankle braces, and engaging in regular strength and mobility exercises can help reduce the risk of future ankle sprains.
10. How long does it typically take to recover from an ankle sprain before returning to pickleball?
- The recovery time varies depending on the severity of the sprain. Mild sprains may take a few weeks, while more severe ones may take several months. It’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional to gauge when it’s safe to return to play.
Ankle sprains can be an unfortunate part of playing pickleball, but with the right approach, you can recover swiftly and return to the court with confidence. Remember that every sprain is unique, so listen to your body and consult a healthcare professional if needed. By following these 10 tips, you’ll be back on the pickleball court, enjoying the game you love in no time!