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Strapping a sprained ankle

Ankle strapping, also called wrapping or taping, is a common physio treatment for helping a sprained ankle heal faster and prevent further injury. Depending on the type and the severity of the injury, your doctor may suggest using ankle support products such as a bandage, kinesiology tape, or braces. Surgery is a possibility, too, in case of completely torn ligaments. 

What Causes a Sprained Ankle?

Ankle sprains happen often when you step on your foot at a wrong angle during sports activities. Running is a typical example. Because you don’t land flat on the bottom of your foot, the ligaments around your ankle sprain and cause the surrounding area to swell and hurt. 

Pain and the inability to fully step on your foot are the most common symptoms of a sprained ankle. Apart from applying all other steps from the RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) program, you will need to have your foot stabilised by supporting the ligaments with sticky physio tape or another way of ankle support, including:

  • Ankle sleeves
  • Mesh ankle tape
  • Bionic and cryo ankle support
  • Lace-up or air-stirrup ankle brace
  • Elastic ankle support
  • Support splint for Ankle
  • Ankle walker

Ankle sprains are also known as low ankle injuries. They don’t they usually require using more advanced strapping equipment from the above list.

How Does Strapping a Sprained Ankle Work?

The main purpose, as well as advantage of strapping a sprained ankle, is to limit the range of motion for the affected person without causing complete immobility of the hurt ankle. 

By letting the foot exercise the range of motion it is comfortable with, it helps the ligament move within limits below pain level, encouraging faster recovery. Unlike elastic ankle support sleeves or bracing, strapping provides greater flexibility in choosing which areas will be kept in place and which ones will be left tape-free. 

Advantages of Sports Taping

Among the many patients in need of ankle strapping, athletes, both professional and recreational, frequently require sports taping. Kinesio taping is practical and quick, and hence, a preferred way to deal with less serious sprained ankles. 

One of the first time you encounter such an injury, a physiotherapist will assess how serious it is and do the initial taping. Many patients decide to do sports taping themselves, which is not recommended. It can be a first-aid measure when they can’t visit the physio clinic or need immediate pain relief. It is important to do ankle strapping properly to avoid causing greater damage and helping the injury to heal faster.

Ankle Taping: How to Do it Properly

The first thing to know about sports taping is whether your foot suffers from an inversion or eversion sprain. 

  • Inversion sprains cause the foot to turn inwards due to a sprain in the lateral (outside) ligament. Most people who require strapping a sprained ankle come to the physiotherapist with an inverted ankle sprain. 
  • Eversion sprains tear the medial (inside) ligament, thus causing the foot to evert or invert in the other direction. This is important because it will impact the direction in which the tape need to begin and roll out. 

An inverted sprained ankle must be wrapped starting from the outside while sticking the tape towards the inner foot areas. An everted sprained ankle should be taped by starting from the opposite point.  

10 Steps to Securing a Sprained Ankle with Atheltic Tape

Here is what an inversion sports taping would look like and what the physiotherapist will do when an injured patient comes in for treatment: 

  1. Make sure the foot is clean and provides enough of an adhesive surface for the tape by cleaning it with a specialised kinesio pre-tape spray.
  2. Ask the patient to put the foot in dorsiflexion, facing the shin upwards at a 90-degree angle, and maintain that position while the taping is in progress, especially during anchoring.
  3. Protect areas of more friction, usually front and back tendons, with heel & lace pads.
  4. Apply pre-wrap athletic tape which protects the skin from getting in touch with the adhesive tape and causing rash, irritation, or allergies. Start pre-wrapping from above the ankle and below the muscle area by moving the tape around the heel, leaving the heel free. 
  5. Create anchors by circling the sports tape and allowing contact with the skin above the pre-wrap. Three anchors at the top and one anchor at the bottom are usually sufficient.
  6. Secure the foot with stirrups. Starting from the inside of the leg, tape the foot by adding a layer from the inner uppermost anchor, below the foot, and to the outside uppermost anchor. Repeat three times.
  7. Place three to four surface tape layers across stirrups to keep them in place.
  8. Apply horse-shoe-shaped tapes to stabilise the ankle as you go down.
  9. Use figure-eight strapping to surround the ankle area from all sides by angling the tape following the natural foot curve.
  10. Create heel locks by wrapping the heel in tape from both sides.

You can switch between heel locks and figure-eights if you are comfortable with the technique. Finalise the taping by checking for wrinkles or holes. Reapply if necessary. There are different widths of athletic tapes: the most common for strapping a sprained ankle is 1.5 inches wide.

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