A sprain is an injury to the ligaments or tissues connecting the bones of the legs. It occurs when the ankle twists awkwardly. A sprain affects ligaments on the outside of the ankle more than those on the inside. It is not selective and anyone can get a sprain while jogging, working out, playing, running on the road or simply walking on uneven surfaces. People who engage in strenuous activities regularly have a higher risk of sprain injuries.
The symptoms of a sprained ankle include tenderness to the touch, limited range of motion, swelling and bruising. A sprained foot is also quite painful, especially when you put weight on it. You may need to get a medical evaluation for the sprain if the pain doesn’t subside, feel a popping sound at the time of injury or the ankle joint is unstable.
When you sprain your foot, the priority is to stabilize the joint. This means wrapping the sprained foot to give ligaments time to heal. Different types of bandages, braces, and tapes get the job done. More importantly, knowing how to wrap a sprained foot speeds up recovery, eliminates the need for additional treatment and prevents further complications.
What You Need to Know Before Getting Started
Wrapping the injured foot too loosely leaves a lot of room for movement and this hinders recovery. On the other hand, wrap it too tightly and you’ll restrict blood flow. This causes tissue damage and interferes with the healing process.
There are a few things you should do before wrapping a sprained foot. For starters, clean the foot gently and dry it. Have any materials you’ll need within reach and don’t forget to be patient when treating a sprain. Keep in mind that how you wrap a sprained foot depends on the type of bandage, tape and any other wrap you may want to use.
Use an ACE Bandage
The ACE elastic bandage is available as a roll with metal clips and Velcro or tape for fastening. It comes in multiple sizes ranging from 4-6 feet long and 2-6 inches wide. An ACE bandage applies gentle pressure on the injured area, giving ample support to aid the healing process. It reduces swelling, holds wound bandages together, and improves circulation. You can an ACE bandage for ankle, knee, elbow, wrist and hand injuries.
With your ankle placed at a 90-degree angle, put the loose end of the rolled bandage at the side of your foot where toes meet the foothold. Wrap it around the ball of your foot once, ensuring a taut and light pull.
Circle the foot arch slowly while pulling the bandage in a figure pattern. Bandage around the ankle from the bottom of the foot and across the top of your foot. Once you get to the ankle bone, wrap around the felt for a firm hold. Keep bandaging in a diagonal pattern, this time moving toward the bottom of your heel and the calf.
Make sure that the ACE bandage covers the entire foot along with 3 inches above the ankle. Use the metal clips or tape to fasten the bandage. If wrapped properly, the bandage should have a snug and comfortable fit that doesn’t cut off circulation.
Taking the ACE bandage twice a day for a few minutes helps with blood flow. You can remove the bandage if the wrapped area becomes numb or tingly, feels cold or turns cold. Consider purchasing an extra bandage for when one of them needs a wash.
Use an Ankle Brace
An ankle brace not only immobilizes a sprained foot to speed up recovery but also protects against injuries. When used to prevent movement of joints, an ankle brace compresses and heats the bones. Ankle braces use hook and loop fasteners to conform to the ankle. While effective for minor injuries, medical professionals don't recommend them for major injuries.
While you have to wear it all the time if injured, an ankle brace can be worn with shoes. It is made from a combination of materials including lightweight plastic and neoprene. Wearing an ankle brace is easy since all you have to do is slip your foot in and pull it over the injured ankle.
First developed in the 1970s, kinesiology tape is designed to provide support without limiting movement like traditional tapes. Physical and sports therapists also use it to reduce pain, keep swelling down and improve the performance of athletes. Kinesiology tape is made with proprietary nylon and cotton blend that mimics the elasticity of the skin. This allows for a full range of motion.
It uses a medical-grade adhesive that is waterproof and lasts 3-5 days even with regular showers and workouts. When applied to the skin, kinesiology tape coils slightly and lifts the skin gently. Medical professionals believe this creates space between the skin and immediate tissues.
Applying kinesiology tape is an art and therefore, you must consult a physiotherapist on the best application techniques. That said, the following directions work in most cases.
- Prepare your skin: Make sure that your skin is clean, dry and free of lotions or liniments. A combination of soap and water or rubbing alcohol is quite effective for cleaning the skin. Don’t forget to remove excess hair and dry the skin before applying the tape.
- Prepare the kinesiology tape: You’ll want to cut the rounded corners at the ends of the strips. This prevents snagging against clothes and ensures the tape doesn’t come off prematurely. During application, avoid touching the adhesive side of the tape.
- Start by taking off the backing paper and applying the first tab to the anchor strip. Use minimal tension to allow the end to recoil slightly. Make sure there is no stretch in the last couple of inches at either end for maximum hold. Pulling at the ends will only cause skin irritation and premature detachment.
- Rather than touch the adhesive on the back of the kinesiology tape, hold the tape by keeping your fingers on the packing paper.
- Adhere to the doctor’s instructions when it comes to how much stretch to use in the treatment area. In most cases, a 75% stretch will suffice. Extending the tape as far it'll go and releasing a quarter of its length will have the desired results.
- Rub the tape for several seconds once done applying the tape to activate the glue.
A sprained foot takes time to heal, and this is aided by wrapping. The time required to keep a sprain wrapped depends on your activity level and nature of the injury. While minor injuries heal in a few days, a severe sprain can take several months to recover completely. Exercises that focus on strength, balance and flexibility help restore your foot’s function and health once it’s ready for rehabilitation. Proper care during the recovery process is paramount, and this includes knowing how to wrap a sprain. Just remember not to wrap too tightly or too loosely.