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Treatment of Ankle Sprain
How is an ankle sprain treated?
Initial treatment for an ankle sprain is summarized as the RICE approach:
You may need to use crutches until walking is not painful without them.
For the first 48 to 72 hours or until swelling goes down, apply an ice pack for 10 to 20 minutes every 1 to 2 hours during the day. After 48 hours, you can keep using ice or try contrast baths. There isn't good scientific evidence that ice or contrast baths help, but they are often used.
An elastic compression wrap will help decrease swelling. Wear it for the first 24 to 36 hours. A protective brace should also be worn if you try to bear weight on your injured ankle. Don't apply the wrap too tightly. Loosen the bandage if it gets too tight. Signs that the bandage is too tight include numbness, tingling, increased pain, coolness, or swelling in the area below the bandage. Compression wraps don't protect your ankle, but they do remind you to be careful of your ankle.
Raise your ankle above the level of your heart for 2 to 3 hours a day if you can. This can decrease swelling and bruising.
If you aren't taking any prescription pain relievers, you may want to take an over-the-counter one such as ibuprofen or naproxen to reduce pain and swelling. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
It may help to wear hiking boots or other high-top, lace-up shoes for support. But be careful. Don't force your foot into a boot if you feel a lot of pain or discomfort. For severe sprains, you can try a splint or brace.
Your doctor may suggest that you keep some or all of your weight off your ankle as it heals. If so, learn to use your crutches or use your walker properly and safely.
After the initial swelling and pain decrease, rehab exercises can help to make sure your ankle heals right, prevent reinjury, and avoid ongoing problems.
Almost all ankle sprains heal on their own with proper home treatment and rehab exercises.
Surgery to repair torn ligaments is usually only considered when there is a severe ligament tear (or tears) or if the ankle is still unstable after rehab. Surgery may also be an option if you have broken a bone.
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