Try to think about all the movements that are needed to get you through a typical day. Chances are, regardless of what type of work you do or what your day consists of, you’ll notice that you probably use your feet and ankles at least a fair amount. This is even more true for active individuals, as most forms of physical activity will require some walking, running, and possibly even jumping to complete.
It’s easy to overlook the significant amount of work that the feet and ankles are doing to keep you stable and allow you to get around, but this can all change when pain enters the picture. Dealing with a sore ankle or nagging heel pain that hits you the first thing in the morning will likely alter your entire perspective and force you to make some adjustments to your daily routine to make moving easier.
Foot and ankle pain are quite common and can result from a number of different injuries, but the end result is usually a limited ability to live out your day as you’d like. For this reason, when it does strike, your next question is probably related to making it dissipate as quickly as possible. Fortunately, there are a number of steps you can take on your own to address an ankle or foot injury and get you back to full strength quickly. We recommend the following:
- Adhere to the RICE protocol: after traumatic injuries—especially ankle sprains—your first step should always be to respond with the RICE protocol within the first 24-72 hours; doing so will relieve painful symptoms and reduce your risk for further damage to the area during this time
- Rest: take some time to rest and recuperate immediately after the injury and avoid any activities that can aggravate your pain; this can range from a few days to a week or more, depending on the injury; for severe ankle sprains, crutches may be needed to help you avoid putting pressure on the ankle
- Ice: in the first few days after a traumatic injury, ice is your friend, as it will slow down blood flow and reduce inflammation, swelling, and muscle spasms; start using it right after the injury and apply it for 15-20 minutes every 1-2 hours during this time
- Compression: after an ankle sprain, wrap an elastic bandage snugly around your ankle to help reduce inflammation and swelling; for severe ankle sprains, an ankle brace may be needed, which adds further protection from future injury
- Elevation: within the first 48 hours after an injury, elevate your foot above your head for as much time as you can manage to drain the pooling of fluids away from the region and reduce swelling, inflammation, and pain
- Massage: if you’re experiencing pain in one particular region, massage can help by improving circulation and reducing your soreness; for plantar fasciitis—for example—rub and knead the bottom of your foot near the heel with ample pressure; using a frozen water bottle to massage your foot is doubly effective because it also applies cold therapy to the area
- Add shoe inserts: also known as insoles, arch supports, or orthotics, these devices can provide your foot with extra cushioning and added support; using an orthotic is particularly effective for individuals with plantar fasciitis due to flat feet
- Replace your shoes: sometimes orthotics won’t be enough; if the soles of your shoes are worn out and not providing you with enough support, or if you notice that your feet are in pain after every time you use your shoes, it may be time to purchase a new pair; when buying athletic shoes, it’s best to go to a running store that has the capability of analyzing your gait to ensure you’re using the right pair for your foot type
- Consider pain medications: depending on the severity of your issue, you may experience some relief with over-the-counter pain medications; non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil), and naproxen (Aleve) will reduce inflammation in addition to pain
- Wear a night splint: for severe plantar fasciitis, a night splint may help by keeping your foot in a locked position overnight; this can prevent you from pointing your foot, and in effect, alleviate pain