Wednesday, July 22, 2015

How To: Wrap a Weak Ankle

Resident expert here!  I do this nearly every time I hike.
You will want to talk to your medical person about what type of sprain it is to see if this is the best way to wrap it.
Mine turned outward, tearing all the tendons out along the outside of my foot and damaging the nerves.  It's been a year since the initial injury and it STILL hurts, more at the end of the day.  And it still swells-I can tell I am pushing too far when my boot starts to suddenly feel 2 sizes smaller.  Let your body tell you what it needs when it's injured. 

Wrapping the ankle gives it stabilization to prevent a sudden injury on the trail, especially under a load.  But this is just a small part of healing such an injury.

If you have a chronic sprained ankle or just one you need to rehab fast, the best thing I can tell you is that as soon as the swelling goes down, start using it!  Do ankle exercises in bed, trace out letters as if your toe were a pencil.  Point your toe and pull it back up over and over.  As soon as you can start taking weight, stand on it.  Do balance exercises and when you are able, use a wobble board.  Stand close enough to your wall that you can touch it with your fingertips, keeping your arms at a 90 degree angle.  Back up just a bit until you are not touching the wall and stand on your injured foot and keep your balance.  When you can do that, shut your eyes and try to keep your balance.  Don't touch the wall for support, just know it's right there if you get too wobbly. Just push your arms forward!

Ice it every time you over use the joint.  Even if it's months later.  15 minutes, max, and never directly to the site, use a cloth buffer.  It will heal!  Wear good shoes, use a hiking pole in uneven terrain and walk, walk, walk.  Try not to limp, even when it's hurting.  That throws everything out of whack and gives you more pain in more places to deal with.  And it's horrible for your back!

Until you can get up and move freely, try yoga in bed and do stretches, keep limber and work on your core-that's your biggest ally in balance.  

Swim ALL you can, it will help more than anything.  I remember very well being about 6 weeks out from the accident and being in the pool.  I decided to jump, since I was in the water to my shoulders.  My ankle groaned and popped and felt SO tight and then-BAM.  It loosened up as the newly mended tendons seemed to snap into place.  I walked better from then on!  

The offending foot

The tools!  Wool socks, a gauze square, self-sticking sport wrap and non-pulling tape.

What helps me most is the weirdest thing.  It's the above tiny strip of tape that I apply starting under the ankle knuckle, which is what I call that bone that sticks out, and apply a little tension to pull it back and up slightly, then lay the tape in place.  The moment I started doing this, I was able to hike again-that day.

I have heels that peel, so to keep it drier and keep it from rubbing at all, I put a piece of gauze over it before I wrap.

Start from the middle of the foot and go up, not at the ankle and go down, which is how every doc has ever had his nurse wrap my foot for me.

Wrap the foot a couple times, then up to the ankle, keeping the wrap flat

Go around the heel from the ankle, wrap the foot one more loop and back up to the ankle.
This keeps the wrap flat and keeps it from rolling in your sock or shoe.

Continue wrapping up the ankle, well past where it 'hurts'

This method keeps the ankle stable while still giving plenty of flex.
Wrapping this way also keeps the wrap flat and not stretched out, so you can use it again if it's not wrecked from your hike!

Last tip-apply socks carefully, roll it like a pair of pantyhose and pull the end over the edge of the wrap until the toe is snug and then pull the sock on.  This will keep it from rolling up, which you don't want because it will cause a hot spot or even a blister if you neglect it.

When you are walking on level ground, using a treadmill, biking or swimming-don't wrap it.  The more it's wrapped, the more your ankle will rely on the wrap and it won't develop all the strength it needs to eventually function without the outside support.  

You will know when you can start leaving it off more and you can always take wrap with you and apply it mid hike if you need it after all.  

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