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Pain Management Health Center

Ankle Sprain

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Ankle Sprain Treatment Self-Care at Home

Care at home is directed toward lessening the pain and helping healing. Because most of the pain is caused by inflammation, you should try to reduce inflammation and keep it from happening.

  • Ice is probably the best treatment.
    • Applying ice to the injury will do more for most people than medications.
    • Ice will counteract the increased blood flow to the injured area.
    • It will reduce the swelling, redness, and warmth.
    • Applied soon after the injury, ice will prevent much of the inflammation from happening.
    • Do not apply ice directly to the skin. Use a towel between the ice and the injury, or use an ice bag. Apply ice for 20 minutes at a time, with at least 20 minutes between applications. This is to help prevent frostbite, which can occur if you use ice too much or use it directly on your skin.
  • Rest prevents further injury and avoids stress on already inflamed tissue.
    • Put the ankle joint at rest by wearing a brace or splint.
    • Compression wraps, such as Ace bandages, do not provide much support to prevent movement of the ankle, and you should not apply them tightly.
  • Elevation (keeping the injured area up as high as possible) will help the body absorb fluid that has leaked into the tissue.
    • Ideally, prop the ankle up so that it is above the level of your heart.
    • You can do this in a reclining chair.
  • Anti-inflammatory pain medications will reduce the pain and combat the swelling. Several are available over-the-counter, such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) and naproxen (Aleve).

Medical Treatment

Treatment by a doctor will be very similar to that described for home care, especially using ice to lessen the inflammation.

  • The doctor may elect to apply a brace or cast to reduce motion of the ankle. Crutches are frequently provided so you do not have to bear weight on the injured ankle.
  • The most common medications used for ankle sprains are anti-inflammatory pain medications that both reduce pain and help control inflammation. If you cannot tolerate these drugs, acetaminophen (Tylenol) or narcotics are common alternatives for pain relief.

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