Treating your Sprained Ankle
Treating your sprained ankle properly may prevent chronic pain and instability. For a Grade I sprain, follow the R.I.C.E. guidelines:
- Rest your ankle by not walking on it. Limit weight bearing. Use crutches if necessary; if there is no fracture you are safe to put some weight on the leg. An ankle brace often helps control swelling and adds stability while the ligaments are healing.
- Ice it to keep down the swelling. Don’t put ice directly on the skin (use a thin piece of cloth such as a pillow case between the ice bag and the skin) and don’t ice more than 20 minutes at a time to avoid frost bite.
- Compression can help control swelling as well as immobilize and support your injury.
- Elevate the foot by reclining and propping it up above the waist or heart as needed.
Swelling usually goes down with a few days.
For a Grade II sprain, follow the R.I.C.E. guidelines and allow more time for healing. A doctor may immobilize or splint your sprained ankle.
A Grade III sprain puts you at risk for permanent ankle instability. Rarely, surgery may be needed to repair the damage, especially in competitive athletes. For severe ankle sprains, your doctor may also consider treating you with a short leg cast for two to three weeks or a walking boot. People who sprain their ankle repeatedly may also need surgical repair to tighten their ligaments.