Ankle injury

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Soft tissue injuries may include stretching and tearing of the muscle or tendon or ligaments causing pain, swelling and stiffness or a limp.

You should:
• Keep your foot raised on a stool with pillows or cushions when you are sitting down. Your foot should be raised higher than your hip.
• Use an ice pack. A bag of frozen peas or crushed ice wrapped in a damp towel will do. Place the ice pack over the affected ankle for no longer than 10 minutes at a time.
• Take tablets such as paracetamol or ibuprofen to relieve any pain (both available from a chemist). Please follow the manufacturer’s instructions

You should not:
• Apply icepacks directly to your skin
• Stand for too long

If your symptoms have not improved after one week, please seek further advice from your GP.

Ankle exercises
• Keep knee straight, pull foot towards and then away from you.
• With knee straight, turn foot inwards then outwards
• Draw circles with your big toe.

These exercises should be done with the foot raised on a stool or pillow and repeated 10 times, every half hour.

When your pain and swelling decrease, progress to:
• Sit on a chair with feet flat on the floor; slide your bottom forward keeping your feet still.
• Sit on a chair; alternately lift your heels and the ball of your foot from the floor. Progress with this exercise so you are standing holding onto a support.
• Practice balancing unsupported on your injured foot. This should only be done if pain free.

Ice Treatment
Ice reduces the pain by decreasing swelling, muscle spasm and joint stiffness. If ice is used immediately following injury and up to 48 hours after, it should only be applied for 10 minutes at a time. It restricts the amount of blood to the area and limits the amount of swelling formed. If ice is used after 48-hours post-injury, it should be applied for up to 15 – 20 minutes. The effect it has after 8 minutes is to increase the amount of blood to the area, helping to pump away swelling that has already formed.

Ice may cause a burn if used incorrectly so follow the instructions below.

Method 1 – for a large area
Wrap a bag of frozen peas or some ice cubes in a cold damp tea towel. Position yourself so that you are comfortable and well supported. Rub a small amount of baby oil onto the area – this prevents a burn. Place the ice pack over the area. The skin will appear pink when you have finished.

Method 2 – for a small area
Wrap one end of an ice cube in a tissue. Rub a small amount of baby oil over the area. Massage the area with the ice cube until it becomes pink. Alternatively, you can freeze water in a polystyrene cup, cut the bottom off and use as an ice massage stick with the polystyrene acting as a hand grip.

Ice should be applied after exercising and can be applied up to every hour if your joints are very swollen and painful. Please note, if you have any heart problems do not put ice on your left shoulder or left side of your neck.

If you have any further queries, please contact:

  • Emergency Department: 01908 995 913 ext. 2409 between 9am and 10 pm
  • Hospital switchboard: 01908 660033 between 10pm and 9am
  • NHS 111
  • Your GP surgery