Sprained ankles are one of the most common injuries in ballet: Out of a group of 24 serious dancers, 2 to 7 will sprain their ankle within a year, according to a study done at the University of Sydney. And because so many dancers attempt to work through the pain, up to 65 percent of them will still suffer from ankle problems three years later. According to the latest information from the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, leaving an ankle sprain un-treated or mistreated can also result in a higher risk of re-injury, chronic disability and even early arthritis.
So what should you do if you suspect you have a sprain? If you are able to put weight on the foot, the sprain can probably be treated with the time-honored RICE method: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Prop your foot up on some cushions, wrap it with a compression bandage, and switch between icing for 10-20 minutes and removing for 10 minutes. If it’s too painful to put weight on your foot, head to a doctor.
But don’t pop an anti-inflammatory (such as Advil or Motrin)—at least not yet. Surprisingly, researchers have recently discovered that inflammation might actually be a necessary part of the healing process. The first pain reliever you should take is acetaminophen (like Tylenol), then after 48 hours you can switch to an anti-inflammatory.
Make sure you get a green light from your doctor or instructor before going back to the studio. Take it slow, and don’t pressure yourself to do exercises that put you in pain.