How is it treated?
In many cases you can first use
the PRINCE approach to treat your ankle:
- Protection. Use a
protective brace, such a brace with a built-in air cushion or another form of
- Rest. You may need to use crutches until you can walk without pain.
- Ice. For at least
the first 24 to 72 hours or until the swelling goes down, apply an ice pack for
10 to 20 minutes every hour or two during the day. Always keep a thin cloth between the ice and your skin, and press the ice pack firmly against all the curves of the affected area.
- NSAIDs or acetaminophen.
NSAIDs (such as Advil and Motrin) are medicines that
reduce swelling and pain. Acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) reduces pain.
- Compression. An elastic
compression wrap, such as an ACE bandage, will help reduce swelling. You wear
it for the first 24 to 36 hours. Compression wraps do not offer protection. So
you also need a brace to protect your ankle if you try to put weight on
- Elevation. Raise your ankle above the
level of your heart for 2 to 3 hours a day if possible. This helps to reduce
swelling and bruising.
Proper treatment and rehabilitation (rehab) exercises are very
important for ankle sprains. If an ankle sprain does not heal right, the joint
may become unstable and may develop
chronic pain. This can make your ankle weak and more
likely to be reinjured. Before you return to sports and other activities that
put stress on your ankle, it's a good idea to wait until you can hop on your
ankle with no pain. Taping your ankle or wearing a brace during exercise can
help protect your ankle. Wearing hiking boots or other high-top, lace-up shoes
for support may also help. But use caution. Don't force your foot into a boot
if you feel a lot of pain or discomfort.
If your ankle is still
unstable after rehab, or if the ligament damage is severe, your doctor may
recommend surgery to repair the torn ligaments.
What kind of rehabilitation program should you follow?
Rehab exercises can begin soon after the injury. You can try to walk or
put weight on your foot while using crutches if it doesn't hurt too much.
Depending on your pain, you can also begin
range-of-motion exercises while you have ice on your
ankle. These exercises are easy to do—you just trace the alphabet with your
toe. This helps the ankle move in all directions.
Ask your doctor
about other rehab. Stretching, strength training, and balance exercises may
help the ankle heal totally and may prevent further injury.