“Looks like you sprained your ankle,” my teammates said after I fell awkwardly during a soccer match. It was a crucial point in the game and I knew that that was not the time to create a fuss over my ankle, so I decided to walk it off. “What’s a little sprained ankle, anyway” I thought to myself as I got up to continue the game. Afterwards, I effectively made no contribution to the game whatsoever and for the next five minutes, simply stood in one corner of the field, trying to keep a straight face, finding it hard to stand straight on the afflicted foot.

Sprained ankles are caused, like in my case, by an awkward fall which causes a twist in the ankle. They can also be caused if you tread on an uneven surface or if you land awkwardly after being airborne. The rolling or turning of your ankle causes the ligaments (the tissue bands in your ankle bones) to tear. The ligaments are stretched beyond their “range of motion” which causes the discomfort and the sprain. Furthermore, a sprain can either be inward, wherein the ankle is rolled inward – an inversion sprain (the more common type of strain), or outward – an eversion sprain. A sprain differs from a fracture (broken bone) only slightly, but if you have severe pain in your affected ankle and there is intensive swelling as well, then it is likely that you may have a fracture instead – at which point you should go see a doctor and get an X-ray. In fact, it is extremely hard to distinguish between a sprain and a fracture which is why an X-ray should be done anyway. How to treat a sprained ankle and how to treat a fracture differs greatly. Unfortunately, I had not gotten an x-ray – my first mistake.

Back to the night of the soccer game, after the final whistle was blown, I limped over to the changing room and was handed a bag of ice. I was then instructed by a friend to use the R.I.C.E. method which would help remedy the pain. According to him, I simply had to Rest, Ice, Compress and Elevate my ankle and I would be up and about in a few days. Sounded simple enough.

The four-step R.I.C.E process began with resting the ankle. In this stage, it is also recommended that walking on the afflicted foot should be avoided as well. Assisted walking instruments are suggested instead or an ankle brace to add stability to the ligaments and control swelling. The next step in the process requires icing; this step is meant to keep down any existing swelling. It should be noted that the ice is not meant to be applied directly on to the skin for more than 20 minutes at a time, to avoid frost bite. The third step involves using an elastic compression wrap that is also designed to help control the swelling and provide more support to the injured area. And finally, the last step is to keep the foot elevated above the waist and off the ground. Although easy to follow, the R.I.C.E. method is not applicable for all sorts of strains. My second mistake was believing that the method would be enough to treat my sprained ankle especially.

Depending on the severity of the sprain: either Grade I, II or III, there are different types of treatments of varying time periods as well. What my friend had failed to mention that night was that the R.I.C.E method only works for Grade I sprains. Grade II sprains can be treated with the same method but require much more time to heal thus the R.I.C.E. method is a slow, ineffective treatment for it. Nobody has time to sit around and nurse their legs for extended periods of time anyway! Unless, if they’re on vacation perhaps but even then, why would you want to be stuck in a sofa or a bed while vacationing? To add to my troubles, I had not even followed the RICE method properly since I was unable to find crutches or a walking stick, so my pain persisted for many days after the soccer match. My range of motion was still afflicted and now there was greater swelling in the area.

I was starting to get worried but I did not know what to do. Surely sprained ankles don’t take this long to heal, I asked myself? I started shooting down over-the-counter pain killers to get me through busy work days but that was only a temporary solution. I continued applying ice when I got home at the end of the day as well, but the next morning, the pain would be back.

The thing is that although ice is an easy, cheap home remedy, it is only a short-term pain reliever and it is certainly not suitable for Grade II or III sprains. Through some research, I found out that ice slows down the “body’s natural healing process” and many studies as well as the National Athletics Trainers Association have stated that it is the most ineffective method for treating a sprained ankle. Prolonged resting does not help in the healing process either because a sprained ankle becomes unstable and does not help strengthen or restore the full range of motion. I then worried about the prospect of having fractured my ankle as well, at which point, I finally went to the doctor to get an x-ray.

After finding out that my ankle was in fact sprained, I was told to go see a physical therapist and fork over some big bucks to treat it. In addition, I was told that the treatment would require some 6-8 weeks before full recovery. Not only did the major cost of the treatment bother me but I hesitated to commit to such a lengthy time frame as well. In about two weeks, I was about to go on a once-in-a-life back-packing adventure to Asia with my buddies, and I did not want to cancel the trip nor become the lame duck opting out of hikes and adventure sports during the trip. I needed a solution pronto. Perhaps there were other remedies out there that could heal me, I had convinced myself.

I went back home and scoured the web. I came across easy-to-do rehabilitation exercises intended to heal sprained ankles and I was intrigued. Investigating further, I found that there was an easy 3-step technique which harnessed the body’s natural healing abilities to treat a sprained ankle. This was when I discovered the scientific findings of the H.E.M. Ankle Rehab System described in the e-book of the same name.

The three steps could be performed at home without any medication and equipment and it was designed for fast relief – which was ideal for me in my precarious situation. I was astonished to find that the H.E.M. rehab system had helped over 50,000 people of all ages and guaranteed pain-free results in 3-7 days. It also claimed that it would be able to heal older injuries (since it had been almost a month since I had sprained my ankle). More importantly, ankle re-injury was also going to be reduced and athletic performance was going to be returned to normal. This point greatly intrigued me. It turns out that sprained ankles, if improperly treated reduced athletic performance – a prospect that scared me because I am an avid soccer player. I just had to try out this H.E.M. process.

As I kept reading about the process, I liked the premise of the system because it was an au-naturel method to treating injuries. I have never been a fan of ploughing through scores of medicine anyway, being of the belief that the body was capable of healing itself. Back in school, I was always impressed with the placebo effect and how it was being used to treat and heal medical patients. Our bodies are capable of more than we give it credit for and I wanted to give it a shot. At that point, it was also my best and only option.

H.E.M. Ankle Rehab was conceptualized by Scott Malin, a fitness expert and best-selling author. Being a mini-fitness enthusiast myself, I was familiar with his YouTube videos about diet, nutrition and fitness, I was eager to find out more about his method. He has worked with athletes and celebrities to give them back their optimum athletic performance, so I knew I could trust this guy.

The process works by rebuilding the ankle in gradual steps. The H.E.M.’s rehabilitation procedure is outlined in three steps:

  1. Healthy Blood Flow: this step speeds up the immune system

In the first 24-48 hours after the ankle sprain, it is the body’s natural tendency to “flood” the sprained area with “powerful immune cells called macrophages” that can repair the ankle. For older injuries, certain nutrients, such as essential vitamins, minerals and micro-nutrients, can be taken to coax the body into performing the same task and increase the flow of macrophages into the injured area. The fresh blood in the area is essential to treating the sprained ankle.

  1. Eliminate Swelling: this step eliminates swelling by assisting the body’s lymphatic system to drain swelling

This critical step taps into the body’s lymphatic system to “safely, naturally and quickly remove scar tissue” from the injured area. Improper removal of swelling causes the body to accumulate “scar tissue in the ankle joint.” For older injuries, step 2 works by breaking apart older scar tissue before draining away swelling. The icing method does not employ this technique and is thus an ineffective way to rid the body of swelling. This explained why, even after a month, my ankle was still swollen.

  1. Mobility: this step helps in the regeneration and repair of muscles

This step comprises of a series of exercises to complete the rehab system. It consists of specific stretches, exercises, etc. to stabilize and strengthen ankles and restore their natural movement. This step also improves athletic performance and reduces ankle sprains without the assistance of ankle braces or compression tapes.

All 3 steps require a simple 30-minute time commitment only, which was manageable for me because I have to log in long hours at work. I quickly did a cost comparison of purchasing the e-book as compared to going to a physical therapist, and I knew I was saving hundreds of dollars – who can resist a good bargain? The H.E.M. program was also extremely accessible for me because they convey the three steps on an e-book as well as through a series of videos – that are immediately available to you on its online portal. I was delighted that as soon as I completed the transaction of purchasing it, I was given access to its resources right away (the online access does not expire, by the way) so I could share it with other soccer buddies, if need be. I was reminded that they have a hassle-free refund policy as well but oh, that refund was not necessary!

Prior to undergoing the treatment, my ankles were weak, stiff and unstable, but after finding out how to treat a sprained ankle via the three step H.E.M. process, I was able to remove residual scar tissue and swelling as well as regain my range of motion in my ankle. And, all this with one week to spare before my fateful trip to Asia! Immediately after recovering, I booked a six-hour trekking expedition up a mountain in Nepal, eager to test out my new and improved ankle.