Ankle Sprain

The ankle is one of the most commonly injured joints due to its anatomical weaknesses and the frequency with which it comes under stress in athletic and recreational activities. Any sprain is a stretching or tearing of joint ligaments (tough fibers that hold a joint together). Sprains occur from sudden overuse or excess force to the joint, particularly in an unintended direction. Ankle sprains are commonly the result of an inward twist to the foot or ankle caused by landing on the outside edge of the foot.

X-rays are sometimes, but not always, necessary to be sure there is no treatable bone injury (fracture). Severe sprains will occasionally produce in a tiny non-harmful bone "chip."

As with most injuries to the extremities, ankle sprains are best treated by immobilization, that is, by the use of elastic bandages, inflatable splints, or a rigid boot for one to three weeks.

Home Care for Ankle Sprain

  • Immediately following the injury elevate the foot and apply cool compresses or padded ice packs to the ankle for about two hours. Continue to apply cooling packs to the ankle when possible for the next 48 hours. This will help minimize swelling.

  • Resting and immobilizing the painful joint are important. We may apply a special device or wrap to your ankle to help stabilize and protect the joint. Be sure to use this at all times during the day. You may remove it at bedtime, but be careful when getting up.

  • Minimize weight bearing on the affected ankle for the first three days, then increase use as pain and sensitivity allow. Crutches may be helpful during this time.

  • After two to three days, warm compresses or soaks may be beneficial to help improve circulation and speed healing. In certain settings, physical therapy may also be prescribed.

  • Ibuprofen or acetaminophen usually will help reduce the pain.

  • Estimating length of disability is difficult at the time of the first exam. Many factors are involved in the healing process, but generally you should be significantly better in one week. It may take six weeks or longer for complete recovery. Even then, some people experience persisting pains. Recheck with your physician if there is not any improvement in one week.


Call Your Physician or Return If Any of the Following Occur:

  • Pain becomes severe or intolerable

  • Increased bleeding or bruising under the skin

  • Any problem related to the method used to immobilize the ankle (Remove any device or splint that feels too tight if you cannot contact us.)

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