Of all the questions we get, this may be the most common... should I tape, brace or wrap a weak or sprained ankle? In almost every single case, we say no. That may sound like flies in the face of conventional wisdom, but the simple fact is that braces, wraps and tape make your ankle weaker. And even worse, they immobilize the ankle joint. Taking a very mobile joint and making it immobile is very bad news for your knees, back and the rest of your body. So, let's take a closer look at why we do NOT recommend these kinds of compression and immobilization both right after a sprained ankle injury and in the following months and years.
When you first sprain an ankle, you will hear people tell you about R.I.C.E. which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. So, in addition to rest, ice and elevating your ankle, it also suggests you compress your ankle and this is usually done with a wrap or brace. Although this seems like a harmless technique to help heal a sprained ankle, rehab experts now agree that this is not the best way to heal an ankle sprain. And, in fact, it can slow down the healing process and hurt your ankle recovery.
Why you should NOT Wrap or Brace a Sprained Ankle
When you wrap or brace an ankle sprain, you are doing it with one purpose in mind- to reduce swelling and restrict movement. Naturally, this makes common sense, because you you do not cause any further injury. But, even though this sounds like a good idea on the surface, think about this:
- A brace or wrap is not very effective at reducing swelling. There are much more effective treatments for reducing swelling that do not require compression. Compression merely restricts blood flow. To reduce swelling, you actually want to do the exact OPPOSITE of that.
- A brace or wrap will directly weaken the ligaments and reduce range of motion in the ankle. While this helps protect the ankle for a day or two, it then has the effect of keeping your ankle weak and stiff. The ankle cannot and will not heal properly with this kind of restriction. This has the overall effect of slowing down the healing process AND causing a much higher risk of future injury.
Remember, when you sprain an ankle, there is extensive damage to the ligaments in and around the ankle joint. In order to heal the injury, it is vitally important that you break up scar tissue, reduce swelling, and increase strength in the ligaments. A wrap or brace is a crutch that your ankle will rely on during the healing process. In effect, it will force the ligaments in your ankle to stay weak instead of fully recover. The wrap will not allow your ankle to move naturally as it recovers which will also inhibit a natural and healthy range of motion. In short, your ankle will heal unnaturally and badly. This will put you at an increased risk of injury in the future. And since most people continue to wear a wrap or tape up their ankles after the sprain, they continue to keep their ankles weak and inflexible. This is a recipe for disaster over time.
So, we are almost always against the use of wraps, braces and tape. Instead of that kind of passive and ineffective treatment for a sprained ankle, we believe that you should incorporate a much more proactive rehab regimen. This does not mean going for a jog on your sprained ankle. But, it does mean, using active rehab techniques that you can do at home which will heal the injury in a natural and complete way. So, instead of laying in bed all day and icing your ankle for weeks with a brace or wrap on it, you need to do specific exercises, stretches and other effective rehab techniques that will have far greater benefits.
In effect, you will be strengthening your ankle instead of weakening it further. And you will be helping the body speed up the healing process dramatically, since the ligaments will heal more naturally. Left to heal by themselves under a wrap or brace, the ligaments will heal very poorly. Rehab experts know understand that the body responds best to a more active approach. Again, it does not mean over-doing it. You do want to continue to rest most of the time, but push yourself gently as you stretch and exercise the ankle.
So, what is the difference in healing time? With the typical R.I.C.E. treatment, including a wrap or brace, you can expect a recovery time of 4-8 weeks or longer. Sometimes, it can take many, many months to get back to full health by using R.I.C.E. And even once you are better, your ankle will be weak and stiff due to the reasons we have just explained. Of course, human nature will make you want to continue wearing a wrap or brace like a crutch even after your are healed. You will be so worried about spraining your ankle again. And of course, that will continue to keep your ankle stiff and weak and put you at a higher risk of another ankle sprain.
In contrast, with a good ankle rehab program, you can expect to be walking normally and pain free in about a week. In addition, your ankle will not need the use of any kind of wrap or brace, since it will be strong and have regained its natural range of motion. Obviously, this puts you at a much lower risk of future injury and is a significantly safer and better way for you to play sports, walk run, etc.
The H.E.M. Ankle Rehab Treatment. has been shown to be extremely effective at speeding up the healing time and reducing the risk of injury. And obviously, it does not require the use of any kind of equipment like a brace or a wrap. It is a much more natural and healthy option for healing a sprained ankle.