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Why Should I Wear an Ankle Brace
So you just sprained your ankle, and you have started your regiment of RICE. Healing your ankle ligaments can take up to six weeks. You need to stabilize your ankle while it heals. The best way to stabilize the ankle is with an ankle brace. The brace will provide support for the injury. Braces can be worn to support the ankle, and allow you to bear weight on the injury. Braces are the most popular treatment to help reduce strain on the healing ankle tissues.
If the ankle ligaments do not heal properly, like mine, you will end up with instability in the ankle. This can cause the ankle to give way when on uneven terrain. Many people who have ankle instability have weak muscles along the outside of the leg and ankle. Wearing a brace will help support these muscles and the ankle which are now more susceptible to injuries.
If your reading this post, you more than likely have already hurt your ankle once, or in my case multiple times. I have injured both my ankles several times. My injuries have occurred in several different activities, with the first time being playing basketball in high school, which was pretty severe. The last time I injured my ankle severely was when walking down the street and stepped in a whole along a sidewalk. In each occurrence, a part of the healing treatment is to wear a brace. I have worn many kinds of braces in my healing processes. That leads us to what kind of brace you should get for your specific ankle injury.
How an Ankle Can Get Sprained
Any movement that suddenly twists the foot beyond the natural range of motion can cause an ankle sprain such as…
- Landing wrong when jumping or running
- Stepping off a curb wrong
- Slipping on a slippery surface
- Tripping on a hole in the ground
What has Happened to the Ankle
When an ankle is sprained, the ankle bone itself is uninjured. It is the ligaments surrounding the ankle bone that is injured. Ligaments are structures in every joint in the body that help control the joint’s movement. The ligament can become injured if it is stretched too far and could result in a partial or complete tear. There are two different types of ankle sprains:
- The inversion ankle sprain is the most common type of sprain and occurs when the footfalls inward and stretches the outer ligaments too far. Pain occurs on the outside of the ankle and not on the inside of the ankle.
- The eversion ankle sprain occurs when the foot is twisted outwards and the inner ligament is stretched too far. Pain will occur on the inside, and not the outside, of the ankle.
Regardless of what type of ankle sprain you have, you will more than likely need to get a brace to help stabilize the joint and the ligaments.
What Type of Brace Should I Get
An ankle brace assists and protects your ankle. The ankle brace is made of stretchy or stiff fabric that features metal or plastic supports. Some ankle braces are pulled on while others lace up or use Velcro straps. Those offering the least protection are pull-on braces that do not feature reinforcements. Pull on brace types are used for compression, helping to minimize inflammation and swelling following the ankle injury. More supportive ankle braces that use reinforcements on either side of the ankle are used after injury or to prevent further injury.
The type of ankle brace you need depends on the severity of your ankle sprain. There are three categories of ankle braces:
- Mild or Light Weight Ankle Brace – for First Degree or mild sprains
- Moderate or Medium Brace – for Second Degree or for those who are more active in sports with lateral movements that will need the support. These moderate braces can also be used as preventative to keep from re-injuring the ankle.
- Maximum Support Braces – These braces are for Third degree, the worst degree of sprain, and have instability in their ankle. They can also be used as a preventative to keep from getting a first-time sprain when participating in strenuous activities.
There are many types of ankle braces, here is a brief rundown of each type:
- Lace Up Support – These types of braces are usually designed for athletes you need confidence and support during their sport. They can be taken on and off easily worn with footwear.
- Aircasts – The aircast ankle braces guard and stabilize the ankle during rehab. It is ideal for those with ankle sprains, minor fractures, or bruising and swelling.
- Daily Use or Mild Support – These types of braces as used by those folks like myself who have chronic instability and need mild support as we go about our daily activities. Sometimes a compression sleeve can provide the support needed.
- Moderate/Maximum Support – These are similar to lace up, and provide stability and support for those who might have injured there ankle more than one time. Some have semi-rigid shells along the ankle to prevent further injury.
- Boots – Boots are semi-rigid shell to keep the ankle sturdy and stabilized. They reduce the pressure on the foot as you walk to help speed up recovery. These are usually used for only the worse grade III sprains, fractures, or post-surgery.
The ankle brace should be tight enough to support your foot, but your skin should not spill over the brace or be so tight that you lose circulation or your skin turns color.
When should I Wear My Ankle Brace
If you are using your ankle brace to prevent an injury, then you will want to wear your brace while performing any activity that exposes your ankle to any lateral movements. Examples are sports such as tennis, basketball, volleyball, etc. If you are using your ankle brace for rehab or treatment, you should wear your brace while performing any daily activities to provide more stability and prevent re-injury. I tend to wear my braces when I have re-injured my ankle or when I might be attempting an activity that might cause injury. I often even wear mild support braces, to support my ankle and to provide increased circulation to help relieve pain.
If you are having ankle pain due to a sprain, it is important to see a doctor for a checkup. You deserve to feel better and get back to your day-to-day activities. With the right care and treatment plan, you will be back on health feet in no time.