What is an ankle sprain?
The bones in the ankle are connected by ligaments (LIG-uh-ments). An ankle sprain occurs when the ligaments in the ankle stretch or tear. When your ankle turns sharply inward or outward, you may get an ankle sprain.
When sprained, your ankle will hurt, swell, and may turn black and blue. You won’t be able to move your ankle as much as usual. When you put weight on your ankle, the pain will be worse.
How do you care for an ankle sprain?
To care for your ankle sprain, you must:
- Rest your ankle. Avoid putting weight on your sprained ankle as much as you can. Stay off your ankle, or limit how much weight you put on it.
- Ice your ankle. Put ice packs on your ankle for 15 minutes at a time. For the first 1 to 2 days, re-apply the ice packs every 30 to 60 minutes. This means you put an ice pack on your ankle for 15 minutes, then take it off and leave it off for 15 to 45 minutes. Then put the ice pack on for another 15 minutes, and remove it for 15 to 45 minutes, and so on.
- Compress your ankle. Your doctor may tell you to wrap your ankle with an elastic bandage, such as an Ace bandage. An elastic bandage gives your ankle support and helps reduce swelling.
- Elevate your ankle. Keep your foot and ankle raised above the level of your heart while you sit or lie down. You can use pillows to prop up your foot. This will help reduce swelling.
The word RICE can help you remember what to do for your ankle: Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate.
Depending on how bad the sprain is, your doctor may also prescribe:
- Medicine to help with pain and swelling
- Crutches to help prevent putting weight on your sprained ankle when you walk
- An air splint to give extra support to your ankle
- Wearing high-top shoes or boots to give your ankle extra support
Follow your doctor’s advice to prevent further injury or another sprain. Your ankle needs time to heal. It may take a few weeks to several months for your ankle to heal completely. Before returning to sports or other heavy activity, make sure your ankle is well-healed.
When to call the doctor
If your ankle does not improve in 48 hours, call your doctor.