Initial treatment for an
ankle sprain is summarized as the PRINCE
- Protection. Use a
protective brace, such as a brace with a built-in air cushion or other form of
ankle support, along with a compression wrap, such as an elastic ACE bandage,
for the first 24 to 36 hours.
- 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.
- NSAIDs or acetaminophen. Examples of
nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) include
ibuprofen (such as Advil or Motrin) and naproxen (such as Naprosyn). A common
acetaminophen is Tylenol.
- 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
- Elevation. Raise your ankle above the
level of your heart for 2 to 3 hours a day if possible to decrease swelling and
Also, it can help to wear hiking boots or other high-top,
lace-up shoes for support.1 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
treatment and rehabilitation (rehab) exercises. For more information, see the Home
Treatment section of this topic.
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.
For more information on
the correct way to wrap a sprained ankle, see:
- Sprained Ankle: Using a Compression Wrap.