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Tips to Reduce Swelling in Hands, Ankles and Feet

Swelling of the hands, ankles and feet is caused by many different things and can occur in people of all ages. The causes can be as simple as high heat, standing too much or eating too much sodium, or it could be a sign of another health issue. For most people, however, swelling in the hands, feet and ankles is not life-threatening and can be treated easily by taking a few precautions or making small lifestyle changes.

swelling

Causes of Swelling of the Hands, Ankles and Feet

There are many different reasons why hands, feet and ankles swell. These reasons include:
  • pregnancy
  • pre-menstrual syndrome
  • medications
  • sitting too long in one position
  • standing too long in one position
  • not drinking enough water
  • too much sodium (salt) in the diet
  • allergies
  • being overweight
  • eating an unhealthy diet
  • too little exercise
  • drinking alcohol or caffeinated beverages
In most cases, a person who experiences swelling occasionally can reduce it with home remedies. However, if swelling persists on a regular basis, see a doctor. There may be another underlying cause.

Treatments for Swollen Hands, Ankles and Feet

While most cases of swelling of the hands, feet and ankles aren’t serious, if left untreated it can cause complications such as an increased risk of infection, decreased blood circulation and a decrease in the elasticity of veins, arteries, muscles and joints. Ways to treat swollen hands, feet and ankles include:
Reduce sodium in the diet – Too much sodium in the diet causes the body to retain water and contributes to the swelling. Lower the amount of salt added to foods when cooking monitor sodium in processed foods. The American Heart Association suggests eating less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day.
Drink plenty of water – Not drinking enough water sends a message to the body to hold onto the water it already has stored, and causes hands, feet and ankles to swell. Drinking at least 64 ounces of water each day will keep the body hydrated and help it to expel extra fluids properly.
Don’t stand or sit for long periods of time – Standing or sitting for long periods of time can cause ankles and feet to swell. Try sitting with feet and ankles propped up above the heart for 30 minutes to relieve the swelling.
Avoid alcohol and caffeine – Drinking too much alcohol or caffeinated beverages can cause swelling in the hands, feet and ankles.
Eat a healthy diet – Eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, protein and whole grains keeps the body’s system working properly so the body doesn’t hold onto excess fluid.
Avoid extreme temperature changes – According to the Mayo Clinic, changes in temperature can aggravate swelling. Avoid hot tubs, saunas, hot showers and baths and take care when out in hot temperatures.
Try a diuretic – Taking a diuretic (water pill) may help ease swollen hands, feet and ankles. Do not take during pregnancy unless advised by a doctor.
Exercise regularly – Regular daily exercise has been shown to help reduce swelling.

Swelling of the hands, feet and ankles is uncomfortable and sometimes painful but it can be reduced by making a few lifestyle changes. If swelling occurs on a regular basis, seek medical attention as it may be a sign of a more serious health issue.

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Ankle Sprains

ankle sprains

The ankle is a complex joint which allows the foot to perform a number of movements. It is connected to the foot bones by a number of ligaments at the sides and back of the joint. While these ligaments are normally very strong, extreme stretching or awkward movements can lead to injury of the ligaments.

Ankle Injuries – Some of the More Common Causes

The ankle is a rather mobile, flexible joint, however there are certain factors that increase the likelihood of a ligament injury:
  • walking on uneven surfaces
  • sudden twisting movement
  • playing sports – especially jumping and landing awkwardly
  • weak ankle muscles – not strong enough to protect the ankle
  • previous ankle sprains, particularly if the treatment or rehabilitation was inadequate
When a ligament injury of the ankle does occur, it can generally be classified into one of three grades of severity, depending on the extent of ligament damage and associated symptoms.

Grade 1 Ankle Ligament Injury – Minimal Damage

This type of injury means there has been some stretching or minor tearing of the ligament(s). The symptoms include pain, swelling, possibly some ankle joint stiffness but not much functional loss. In other words, despite the pain and swelling, a person can still weight-bear and mobilise – though with some difficulty.

Treatment of mild ligament damage is by resting the foot. The less weight-bearing on the affected foot, the better. Applying an ice pack, compression bandage and elevating the foot above heart level are also very important.

Grade 2 Ankle Sprains – Moderate Ligament Injury

In this type of injury, there is a more severe tearing of the ligament. The symptoms of Grade 2 sprains are more intense – there is usually significantly more swelling and a great deal of pain. The ankle joint becomes rather stiff and range of movement is very limited. The stability of the ankle joint is also compromised.

As with Grade 1 ankle sprains, it is very important to rest the foot. Weight bearing should be avoided completely, if possible. Elevating the affected ankle above heart level, using a compression bandage and regular application of an ice pack are also essential.


Depending on the intensity of the symptoms, anti-inflammatory medication may be indicated.

Following the acute phase of the injury, rehabilitation is highly recommended in order to strengthen the ankle and restore good movement and balance.

Grade 3 Ankle Ligament Tear – Severe Ankle Injury That Requires Medical Treatment

This is the most severe of the three types of ankle ligament injuries, due to a complete rupture of the ligament. Symptoms include severe swelling and pain, gross instability of the ankle and consequently a loss of ankle function.

Treatment of this type of injury often requires surgical intervention, in order to repair the ruptured ligament. Immobilisation of the ankle in a cast is also needed, usually for around two to three weeks and the injured person could be on crutches for several weeks.

Surgery and/or immobilization of the ankle is usually followed by physiotherapy. Rehabilitation is crucial to restore the joint to its pre-injury function and to prevent any future ankle injuries.

Recovery Timeframes for Ankle Sprains Vary According to Severity of the Injury

Recovery from a Grade 1 ankle sprain is fairly quick. Depending on the extent of swelling, full recovery can be achieved within a week or two.

Grade 2 ankle sprains take four to six weeks to heal. This timeframe includes the resting of the ankle in the acute phase of the injury, as well as the subsequent rehabilitation phase. Timely treatment and adequate rehabilitation will generally reduce the recovery timeframe for Grade 2 ankle sprains.

Grade 3 sprains will take longest to heal with eight to 12 weeks being the average timeframe to full recovery. Following medical advice is very important and as mentioned before, rehabilitation is of utmost importance. Failure to treat and rehabilitate a severe ankle sprain will not only increase recovery timeframes, but will almost certainly lead to ongoing ankle problems, such as recurring injuries, pain, swelling, stiffness and poor balance.

Ankle sprains can vary in severity from Grade 1 to Grade 3, but regardless of the severity of the injury, treatment within the first 48 hours will reduce the acute symptoms and will speed up recovery.
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