How to Care for a Sprained Ankle


Most people suffer from a sprained ankle at some point during their lives. A sprain occurs when the ligaments connecting your ankle bones are stretched or torn. This can result in mild discomfort to extreme pain, depending on how seriously you are injured. Many sprains heal on their own as long as you know how to care for them properly. However, more serious sprains may require a doctor’s visit. Follow these steps to help your sprained ankle heal as quickly as possible.

Determine the Extent of the Injury

First, it’s important to determine how badly your ankle has been sprained. If you only feel mild discomfort, it’s usually safe to let your ankle heal on its own at home. However, if you feel intense pain in your injured ankle, you should visit a doctor for an exam. Your pain may be due to a small fracture, or your ligaments may have been too badly damaged to heal correctly on their own. Walk in clinics in Maple Lawn, MD, treat sprained and fractured ankles if your regular doctor is not able to see you right away.

Follow R.I.C.E.

If you do not believe that you are badly injured and do not go to a doctor right away, follow the R.I.C.E. guidelines for treating your sprained ankle.

  • Rest: Keep off your feet as much as possible. When you do have to move around, use crutches to keep your weight off your injured foot.
  • Ice: Apply an ice pack to the injured area to keep the swelling down and help relieve some of the pain. Mild sprains should take 2-3 days for the swelling to subside.
  • Compression: Wrapping your injured ankle helps stabilize it and prevents further injury. You should wrap it snugly, but not too tightly, or you may limit circulation to the injured area, which will slow the healing process. If you experience numbness, tingling, or swelling in the foot below the bandage, it’s probably wrapped too tightly.
  • Elevation: Prop your foot up over the level of your heart for at least a few hours each day to reduce swelling and bruising in your ankle.

Pain Relief

Over-the-counter medications can be used to help relieve some of the pain while you heal. Many pain medications also help combat swelling and inflammation. Be sure to read the instructions carefully and never combine pain medications without the approval of your doctor.

See a Doctor

If you don’t start to see improvement in your ankle after 2-3 days at home, it’s time to see a doctor. He will take an x-ray of the area to determine if there are any broken bones or torn ligaments that may need more extensive treatment. He can also prescribe you stronger medications for severe pain, if needed. And he can provide you with a stabilizing boot that will help protect your ankle as you heal.


Surgery is rarely needed to treat a sprained ankle, but it is sometimes required in the most serious cases. If your injury includes a broken bone or a severe ligament tear, surgery may be necessary to make sure the injury heals correctly. Your doctor may also recommend surgery if you frequently sprain your ankle or if your ankle is still unstable after rest and rehabilitation.

Rehabilitate Your Ankle

Once your initial symptoms have subsided, it’s important that you rehabilitate your ankle slowly before putting too much strain on it. A sprained ankle will be weak and more likely to become reinjured until it has completely healed, which may take weeks or months. Walk in clinics in Maple Lawn, MD, can provide you with rehabilitation exercises to perform to help you gradually strengthen your ankle until it is back to normal.