Initial treatment for an
ankle sprain is summarized as the RICE
- Rest. You may need to use
crutches until walking is not painful without them.
- Ice. For the first 48 to 72 hours or until swelling goes down,
apply an ice pack for 10 to 20 minutes every 1 to 2 hours during the day. After
48 hours, you can continue with ice or try
contrast baths. There is not good scientific evidence
that ice or contrast baths help, but they are often used.
- Compression. An elastic
compression wrap will help decrease swelling and should be worn for the first
24 to 36 hours. A protective brace should also be worn if you try to bear
weight on your injured ankle. Don't apply the wrap too tightly. Loosen the
bandage if it gets too tight. Signs that the bandage is too tight include
numbness, tingling, increased pain, coolness, or swelling in the area below the
bandage. See instructions on
how to wrap an ankle with an elastic bandage. Compression wraps do not offer
protection, except by reminding you to be careful of your
- Sprained Ankle: Using a Compression Wrap
- Elevation. Raise your ankle above the
level of your heart for 2 to 3 hours a day if possible to decrease swelling and
If you are not taking any prescription pain relievers, you may want to take an over-the-counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen or naproxen to reduce pain and swelling. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
It may help to wear hiking boots or other high-top,
lace-up shoes for support. But use caution. Don't
force your foot into a boot if you feel a lot of pain or discomfort.
Your doctor may suggest that you keep some or all of your weight off your
ankle as it heals. If this happens, learn to use your crutches or walker
properly and safely.
Almost all ankle sprains heal on their own with proper home
treatment and rehabilitation (rehab) exercises.
Surgery to repair torn ligaments
is usually only considered when there is a severe ligament tear (or tears) or
if the ankle remains unstable after rehab. Surgery is also a
consideration if you have broken a bone.