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Basic First Aid Skills- How to Treat a Sprained Ankle

ankle injury

Adventure Medical Kits Empowers You Series

Heading out into the wilderness can be an amazing experience that allows you to explore remote areas and challenge yourself. As a smart adventurer, you’ve probably already taken the steps to prepare for your journey by bringing along the basics for survival (Food, Water, Shelter, First Aid Kit, extra Clothing ) and knowing the terrain. But anytime you’re a few hours from advanced medical care, you are assuming risk and should be prepared for injuries and illnesses. That’s why it’s good to know some first aid basics. In our Adventure Medical Kits Empowers You Series, we’ve compiled a list of skills and treatments we consider essential for anyone who goes out in the backcountry. Our articles are not a substitute for professional medical training or treatment. We recommend taking a full Wilderness First Aid course for more comprehensive knowledge and seeking professional care as soon possible.

Basic First Aid Skills- How to Treat a Sprained Ankle

Taken from Adventure Medical Kits’ Wilderness & Travel Medicine Guide, By Dr. Eric A. Weiss

There you are, just hiking along the trail when suddenly the footing changes and you roll your ankle to one side. You feel it stretch and maybe even feel it tear. It stops you cold and it hurts.

SPRAINS

A sprain is stretching or tearing of ligaments that attach one bone to another. Ligaments are sprained when a joint is twisted or stretched beyond its normal range of motion. Most sprains occur in the ankle and knee.

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms include tenderness to the site, swelling, bruising, and pain with movement. Because these symptoms are also present with a fracture, it may be difficult to differentiate between the two. Use caution and treat the injury until x-rays or further medical evaluation is available.

Treatment

  1. First aid begins with R-I-C-E (see below). If the victim cannot bear weight at all, use a splint to stabilize the foot and ankle and get assistance out of the backcountry.
  2. If the victim can still walk, use a C-Splint,  compression wrap or tape the ankle for support.
  3. Continue R-I-C-E-S for at least 72 hours following an injury and administer a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as Ibuprofen, 3x per day with food to reduce pain and inflammation.
  4. As soon as possible, seek medical evaluation to determine the need for X-rays to check for fracture.

A leg tensor bandage being applied outdoors

R-I-C-E-S- Immediate steps for treating sprains and strains

Rest: Resting takes the stress off the injured joint and prevents further damage.

Ice: Ice as quickly as possible as it will reduce the swelling and pain. Apply an ice pack or cold compress to the area for up to 20 minutes, 3-4 times per day. Follow with a compression bandage. Wrapping is key, as the joint will swell as soon as the ice is removed.

Compression: Compression wraps prevent swelling and provide support. Pad the injury with socks or soft items, and then wrap with an elastic bandage. Begin the wrap at the toes and move up the foot up and over the ankle with the wrap. The wrap should be comfortable but not too tight. If the victim experiences numbness, tingling or increased pain, loosen the wrap.

Elevation: Elevate the injury above the level of the heart as much as possible to reduce swelling.

Stabilization: Tape or splint the injured area to prevent further damage.

Next Steps:

Continue R-I-C-E-S for at least 72 hours following an injury and administer a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as Ibuprofen, three times per day with food to reduce pain and inflammation.

 



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