The treatment for a work-related ankle sprain injury depends on the severity of the sprain. Initial treatment may involve the R.I.C.E. protocol, but more severe sprains may require additional interventions.
Here are common treatment options for a sprained ankle:
Rest: Refrain from putting weight on the injured ankle. Crutches may be recommended to reduce stress on the ankle.
Ice: Apply ice to and around the injured area to reduce swelling and numb pain. Ice can be applied for a duration of 15-20 minutes every 2-3 hours.
Compression: Use a compression bandage to control the swelling. Make sure it is snug but not too tight.
Elevation: Elevate the injured ankle above the level of the heart whenever possible to minimize swelling.
It is recommended to use over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), that may help manage pain and reduce inflammation. Topical analgesic creams or gels can be applied to the affected area.
For moderate to severe ankle sprains suffered at work, immobilization with a brace, splint, or walking boot may be recommended to protect the injured ligaments and promote healing.
Physical therapy is a natural recommendation prescribed by healthcare professionals to improve strength, flexibility, and range of motion in the ankle. Therapeutic exercises that comprise physical therapy can help with balance and stability, thereby reducing the risk of future sprains.
Bracing and Taping
Ankle braces or taping can provide additional support for the injured employee during the recovery process, especially when returning back to work.
In some cases, the occupational medicine professional may prescribe stronger anti-inflammatory medications to manage pain and swelling.
In extremely rare cases of severe ligament damage after an ankle sprain and/or when all other conservative measures fail, surgical intervention may be considered to repair or reconstruct damaged ligaments.
How to Tape an Ankle Sprain
Taping an ankle can provide support and stability for workers with a sprained ankle. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to tape an ankle for support after an employee suffers from an ankle sprain.
Assemble the Materials
You will require rigid or elastic athletic tape, pre-wrap or foam underwrap, and scissors.
Prepare the Skin
Ensure the skin is clean and dry. If the employee has hair on the ankle, consider shaving or trimming it to improve tape adherence. Apply the pre-wrap or foam underwrap to cover the foot and ankle, beginning from the arch of the foot and reaching up to the calf of the leg. The pre-wrap will help protect the skin and make the tape more comfortable.
Begin by anchoring the tape just above the ankle bone on the outside (lateral side) of the foot. Wrap the tape once around the ankle, covering the pre-wrap.
Begin a figure-eight pattern by wrapping the tape under the arch of the foot, and crossing over the top of the foot. Continue wrapping around the ankle, crossing over the front and back in a figure-eight pattern. Do make sure that the tape is snug but not too tight, allowing for proper circulation.
To create a heel lock, wrap the tape around the back of the heel, starting on the outside and finishing on the inside. Repeat the process, creating an X-pattern on the back of the heel.
Continue wrapping the tape around the ankle in a circular motion, covering the figure-eight pattern. Overlap each layer by about half the width of the tape.
Apply additional support strips by wrapping the tape around the ankle horizontally, covering the entire ankle. Overlap each strip by about half the width of the tape.
Secure the Tape
Finish the taping by securing the tape with an anchor strip just above the ankle bone on the outside. Check with the injured worker that the tape is well-adhered but not overly tight.
Check for Comfort and Range of Motion:
Once the ankle is taped, ensure that it feels supportive but not too constrictive. Check for proper range of motion in the foot and ankle.
It is imperative that in the event of an ankle sprain, ankle taping for the injured worker should be done by someone with knowledge and experience, such as a healthcare professional or an occupational medicine provider, since improper taping may lead to discomfort or injury.