Ankle sprains are common injuries, especially among athletes. According to an article by the American College of Sports Medicine, about 25,000 people suffer from an ankle sprain each day, and almost half of all sports-related injuries involve an ankle sprain. Although there are different grades or severities of ankle sprains, they all involve swelling, painfulness when walking, and difficulty bearing weight on the ankle. There may also be bruising, and you may find yourself limping after you have sprained your ankle. Although they can feel incredibly painful, often they can be treated at home and do not require a visit to the doctor.
The basic at-home treatment for a sprain suggested by The American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society, as well as a variety of other sources, is R.I.C.E.: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Often, it is tempting to just try to push through the pain. This is particularly true of athletes. Unfortunately, trying to push through the pain can cause permanent damage or make the injury to take longer to heal. Stay off the ankle as much as possible for a few days. You may even need to use crutches at first. If you are an athlete, take a few days off from practicing and allow your ankle to heal. A few days off is a lot better than the weeks or months you may need to take off if you permanently injure the ankle.
Icing your ankle is also important. This will bring down the swelling and help it to heal sooner. Do not put the ice directly on the ankle. Instead, put a thin towel between the ice and your skin. Although you can ice the ankle often, do not put ice on it for more than twenty minutes at a time. You should continue to ice the ankle for at least the first 72 hours after the injury.
A compression wrap is also important. This helps to reduce the swelling and helps to keep the ankle immobilized. This can be especially helpful if you do need to walk on the ankle. Elevating the ankle above the heart can also reduce swelling. Pain medicines such as ibuprofen can also be used to reduce the pain and swelling.
With most sprains, the swelling and pain start to go down within a few days. It is important to know that this does not mean you can return to your regular activities right away. Go easy on the ankle for a few days, and slowly return to your more strenuous athletic activities. You may also want to keep your ankle wrapped when participating in sports, particularly in the beginning.
If the ankle or foot looks misshapen, if there is excessive swelling or bruising, if your ankle does not start to get better after a few days, or if you have other concerns which you think may require a doctor’s attention, contact a qualified medical professional. He or she can help you decide if surgery or other actions are required for your ankle to properly heal.