Swollen ankles can occur for a variety of reasons including injury, pregnancy, diet and disease. Whatever the case for the swelling, a swollen ankle can make it difficult to go about your regular routine. Luckily, there are a few different treatment options to help relieve the swelling and help you get back on track.
One of the first actions you should take when facing a swollen ankle is to elevate it. Sit in a chair and find a foot rest that elevates the ankle at least as high as your heart. Elevating your ankle helps move blood flow away from the area, which in turn helps the swelling in the area to subside.
Once the ankle has been elevated, use ice to help further relieve the swelling. You may be tempted to use heat to treat the area, but heat is not always the proper procedure when dealing with swelling. Heat has the capacity of opening blood vessels and allowing more blood to circulate to the area. Although this can help bring healing cells to the area in cases where the swelling is due to injury, it can also contribute to, and increase the overall magnitude of, the swelling. Ice, on the other hand, helps reduce the blood flow to the swollen area, which helps reduce the swelling of the ankle.
Keeping the ankle wrapped can also help relieve swelling. Along with providing support to the ankle joints and tissues, an ankle wrap also provides a small amount of compression to the area. Compression helps by limiting the swelling in the area.
When swollen ankles are accompanied by pain, you can use an over-the-counter pain medication, such as Aleve or ibuprofen, to help reduce the pain sensations in the ankle. Most swollen ankles do not cause enough pain to warrant the use of prescription pain killers, as the potential side effects of the prescription usually far outweigh the benefits. If the swollen ankle is due to pregnancy, you should always speak to your doctor before taking any medications, including over-the-counter pain medications.
If your swollen ankle is due to injury, one of the best things you can do to help it heal is to slowly increase your level of activity. This can be done at home, but for more serious cases (such as with a sprained ankle), you may need to see a physical therapist. Putting the ankle back to work helps restrengthen the muscles, and can also help regulate blood circulation in the ankle. It is important to balance the amount of activity you perform with ample amounts of rest time. Overworking the ankle can cause further, and in some cases more severe, injury if you are not careful.