An ankle sprain is an injury to one of the ligaments in your ankle. Although many sprains usually heal on their own, you should see a doctor right away to rule out broken bones.
The best way to remember how you should treat your ankle is with the acronym R.I.C.E.: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.
“The most important part of recovering from an ankle sprain is rest,” says Andrew C. Trueblood, MD, orthopedic surgeon at Saint Francis Medical Center. “Your ligament needs to heal, and to do so it has to take a break from working. Avoid putting weight on it and use crutches if you are in intense pain.”
You should use ice to reduce swelling for as long as you are experiencing symptoms. Ice your ankle for 20 to 30 minutes every four to five hours for the first few days, and once a day after that until you feel better.
Compression and elevation are also key to your recovery. “Use a compressive bandage – such as an ACE™ Brand elastic bandage – to provide stability for your ankle,” says Trueblood. “This will help you avoid reinjuring it. Elevation is also important: When you are sitting, prop your ankle so it is above your heart to reduce swelling.”
You may also use pain relievers such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen to manage your pain while your ankle heals. After a couple of days, you can slowly begin using your ankle again.
In rare cases, you may need surgery to repair a severe sprain. During the procedure, your doctor will remove cartilage, torn ligament and bone to aid the healing process. He or she may also need to repair or reconstruct the ligament.
“Surgery is usually unnecessary,” says Trueblood. “With proper treatment, most sprains heal very well on their own. But you should take special care of the injured ankle for several weeks after the sprain. Your risk of an ankle sprain increases after you have already experienced a sprain.”
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