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You sprained your ankle. Now what?

What to do immediately following a sprain

  • Rest. Avoid any activity that causes pain in the ankle. Rest your ankle, and minimize walking for the rest of the day.
  • Ice. Apply ice to the sore part of your ankle, typically for 15 minutes on and then 15 minutes off, as much as possible for the rest of the day. Continue with 15 minutes of icing three times a day until the pain and swelling subside. Don’t apply ice directly to your skin, and use a towel or cloth for protection.
  • Compression. Using a compression sleeve, elastic bandage wrap or brace on the affected ankle can prevent excessive swelling, protect the area from repeated injuries and provide support. Some inflammation is needed for healing, but too much can be harmful.
  • Elevation. Elevate your foot and ankle at or above the level of your heart as often as possible for the rest of the day. This will help control pain and decrease swelling.
  • Continue with RICE, gradually reducing the steps as pain and swelling decrease.
  • Take over-the-counter medications, k dur images such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen or aspirin, if you can safely take them. To manage pain, consider applying topical medications or patches.
  • Start resistance-free, non-weight-bearing, range-of-motion exercises, such as drawing each letter of the alphabet with your foot. Or move your ankle to the compass points: north to south and east to west. Maintaining this range of motion can help prevent long-term stiffness, reduce swelling and help the stretched ligaments heal. Keep motion within your pain-free zone to avoid making the injury worse.
  • Gradually return to your normal activities as long as your pain doesn’t increase. At first, this includes walking short distances, such as to the bathroom, then progressing to your normal level of walking.

What to expect for recovery, additional treatment

  • A brief period of immobilization and non-weight-bearing with crutches or a knee scooter
  • One to two weeks of protected weight-bearing in a tall walking boot
  • Physical therapy to help increase stability, strength and balance
  • Possible ankle surgery
  • Evidence of a complete rupture of one or more of the lateral ankle ligaments requiring repair
  • History of repeated sprains and a determination that ligament reconstruction is needed
  • An associated injury, such as a partially or completely torn tendon, a fracture, or damage to cartilage in the ankle joint

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