How to Treat a Sprained Ankle

By Glenn G. Gabisan, MD, FACS


Ankle sprains are one of the most common athletic injuries. Most sprains occur when the foot is pointed down and inward while running or landing from a jump. The ankle is twisted and the ligaments on the outer aspect become stretched or torn.  Swelling and pain are localized to the injured ligaments and it is difficult to stand.  Rest, ice, compression, and elevation are the mainstays of early treatment. If you are unable to bear weight and there is tenderness directly over the bone then seek medical advice. Ice the ankle 10 to 20 minutes of every hour during the day for the first 48 to 72 hours. Wrap the foot and ankle with an ace bandage to control swelling. Elevate the ankle to let fluid drain away up the leg. The localized swelling which starts on the outside of the ankle will spread around the ankle the following day. You may not see bruising for 3 to 5 days. A lace up ankle brace with crossing Velcro straps is helpful to protect the ankle when walking. The recovery time and return to sports varies from a few days to several weeks. Expect mild soreness and swelling over the injured ligaments for a few months but there should be a slow continued improvement. Always start slow and listen to your body. The good news is that you will likely return to normal activity with time.