What Is It?
A sprained ankle means you have stretched and possibly torn the ligaments in your ankle.
Even though sprains are common, they are not always minor. Repeated or severe sprains can develop long-term joint pain and weakness. Treating a sprained ankle can help prevent ongoing complications.
In most cases, you feel pain right away at the site of the tear. Often the ankle starts to swell immediately and may also bruise. The ankle area is usually tender to touch, and moving is painful.
Typically, the more pain and swelling present, the more severe the sprain is the longer it may take to heal.
An examination of the foot and ankle, lower leg, and knee will take place to make sure there is no additional injury. In some cases, either an X-ray or X-rays may be necessary to confirm no bones are broken as these can appear similar.
- Warm up before exercise or participation in sports
- Take caution walking, running or working on uneven surfaces
- Wear shoes that fit well and are appropriate for your activity
- Avoid high-heeled shoes
- Maintain good muscle strength and flexibility
- Practice balance exercises
In many cases you can first use the RICE approach to treat your ankle:
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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 foot with no pain in the ankle.. 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.
Rehab exercises can begin soon after the injury. You can try to walk or put weight on your foot. You may need to use crutches until you can walk without pain. 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.