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Ankle Sprain

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Overview

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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 ankle support.
  • 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 it.
  • 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 slideshow.gif 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.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 15, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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