What to Do if You Sprain Your Ankle

Ankle sprains are the most common lower limb injury—and sports injury of any type—in America. As a matter of fact, as many as 20% of all sports-related injuries are ankle sprains. Despite this, many people aren’t sure about the best way to care for a sprain, and that can mean longer healing times, chronic pain, or even persistent instability and wobbliness long after the original accident.

If you sprain your ankle, it’s important to begin first aid procedures right away. Don’t try to hobble your way through the end of the game first! Offload immediately, as any further walking or bearing weight could worsen the ligament tear. Implement the RICE protocol:

  • Rest. You’re already doing this by offloading the weight.
  • Ice. Twenty minutes of icing at a time, up to 4 times per day, minimizes pain and swelling.
  • Compression. Various dressings, bandages, or wraps apply light pressure to improve circulation and support the weakened joint.
  • Elevation. Keep your feet propped up when you sit or sleep to encourage good blood flow.

We generally recommend that you seek professional help for any pain or swelling in your ankle that might be a sprain. Simply put, the risk of complications from a sprain that doesn’t heal properly is too high. Very mild sprains may well heal on their own just with RICE therapy, but more serious pain (or pain that doesn’t improve within 48 hours) should be evaluated by our podiatry team as soon as possible.

Depending on the severity of the sprain, additional treatments may include the likes of:

  • Crutches that allow you to walk without putting weight on the ankle
  • A splint, brace, walking boot, or short cast to keep the ankle stable and immobilized during healing.
  • Surgery to repair a torn tendon (only necessary in the most severe cases).
  • Physical therapy exercises to rehabilitate the sprain during and after the healing process.

The experts at Foot & Ankle Clinic of the Virginias work hard every day to help patients overcome their injuries. To schedule an appointment at any of our convenient locations, please call (800) 456-8637.