Inflammation means your body is protecting you
Inflammation is a normal response when you have a sprain. It’s how your body reacts to the injury. When you sprain an ankle, the soft tissues in your body are damaged. This causes the damaged tissues to release chemicals that act as an alarm signal to begin the healing process. Consequently, more blood flow is released to the site of the injury which brings immune system cells with it. This explains why your sprained ankle may be swollen, but this is actually a good sign that your body is working to repair the damage.
Why are sprains so painful?
When you sprain an ankle, your body’s alarm system releases chemicals called prostaglandins from the damaged tissue. The release of these chemicals is important for causing inflammation and healing the injury. However, it also makes nerves sensitive to pain. This pain can be alleviated by pain relievers while the injury heals.
Managing inflammation while you have it
Since inflammation is at the source of pain, reducing inflammation may help provide relief. For sprained ankles or muscle strains, there is the RICE method. It simply stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.
The body needs time to repair, so stop the activity as soon as you’ve been injured and rest your ankle for the first 3 days. Resting helps prevent further damage.
Ice is a great way to reduce pain, bleeding and swelling. Apply ice to the injury for 20 minutes every 1-2 hours, continuing for up to 48 hours.
Firmly applying an elasticized bandage to the area also helps prevent swelling and provides support for the injury.
By keeping the injury raised, swelling can also be reduced. This approach works best by raising the ankle to slightly above your heart level whenever possible, resting it on a chair or pillow.
Anti-inflammatory medicines help to ease pain
Ibuprofen (the active ingredient in Nurofen) reduces the production of prostaglandins to reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Taking an anti-inflammatory pain reliever like Nurofen can be helpful for managing pain associated with muscle injuries like an ankle sprain.
Most ankle sprains will recover within 1-2 weeks. If symptoms don’t seem to improve within the first two days, or you are concerned about your sprain for any reason, see your doctor for advice.
Other pain that’s associated with inflammation
Inflammation isn’t just confined to a sprained ankle. It can also be the cause of pain in other conditions including osteoarthritis and cold & flu symptoms.
Inflammation is a double-edged sword
Inflammation is both good and bad. While it’s part of the healing process of a sprain or strain, it’s also responsible for the pain. Now that you have a better understanding of how the inflammation process works, you can make the appropriate choices to reduce inflammation and relieve the pain while your ankle sprain heals.