"Walking off" an ankle injury

This morning I stepped awkwardly on the mat on the sidewalk so my ankle folded under me and I fell. I know from experience that this is one of those injuries you can ‘walk off’, which is what I did.

The ankle hurts like heck for a couple of minutes while you roll around like a fake-injured soccer player, but once you can get up,after a few minutes of walking around the pain disappears.

What’s going on here? Is the ligament, or a muscle or some tendon that gets stretched? Other than RICE and advil is there a better way to treat it? Does this kind of injury even have a name?

There are two ligaments that control/limit movement of the ankle to the outside.

A sprained ankle is anything from a slight stretching of the ligaments to a complete tear of both.

Even a severe sprain can be pain-free after a few minutes but the pain will return in a few hours along with swelling and often bruising (the torn ligaments will bleed).

Well, I thought a sprained ankle was something you couldn’t walk on. I guess my childhood knowledge of first aid failed me.


I had a football coach tell me to “Rub some dirt on it and jog it off”. It wasn’t an injury unless bone was sticking out.
I would never let my kids play for a guy like that.

Walking on a sprained ankle isn’t really good for it. Even if you can walk on it; RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) is better - especially right after the injury. It can add significant time to recovery if you don’t rest it right away.

Most of the time I too walk off a twisted ankle.
I believe that walking off an injury (minor) prevents swelling.
Swelling is the body’s natural way of splinting.
I also pop all blisters even though their are many directives not to do so.

Wait, I associate splinting as a positive therapy. So walking it off doesn’t allow it.

I hope a doctor shows up to tell us why it works, no R.I.C.E. needed.

I’ve had lots of “minor wrenches” of the ankle, the kind that you can just “walk off.”

And also the kind that you can’t, where each step is agony.

I’ve always just used the cheap-ass discriminant: if I can walk, then I do walk.

Heck, it’s like the difference between a bruise and internal bleeding. A bruise is internal bleeding, just not so severe that it needs surgery.

I don’t think you’ll find too many of us health professionals endorsing the jus walk it off approach. Most of us go along with this NYT take on it.

That does not mean immobilization. “Functional rehabilitation” is the idea of providing some protective support while mobilizing early. Handle them too cavalierly and you may set up a chronically recurrent sprain situation.