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Published on September 22, 2016

How to Cope with a Sprained Ankle

Cottage Center for Orthopedics - Ankle Sprain - Coping and Healing

Many Americans have suffered through an ankle break or sprain. Your ankle is an intricate network of bones, ligaments, tendons and muscles. Strong enough to bear your body weight and enable you to move, your ankle can be prone to injury and pain.

You might feel the pain on the inside or outside of your ankle or along the Achilles tendon, which connects the muscles in your lower leg to your heel bone. Although mild ankle pain often responds well to home treatments, it can take time to resolve. You should see your doctor for severe ankle pain, especially if it follows an injury.

Even a relatively benign ankle injury can be quite painful, at least at first. “If you have any significant swelling or tendonitis, it’s best to be evaluated by a physician for a proper diagnosis and rehabilitation plan,” said Dr. Steven Pearson, an affiliated physician with the Cottage Center for Orthopedics.

Give the Ankle Adequate Time to Rest and Heal

  • Use crutches if possible during the healing process, and begin a rehab exercise regimen once healing occurs
  • Exercise could include: "motion exercises [pointing toes up and down, writing the alphabet with your feet], strengthening [tubing exercises, cuff weight around the foot], balance exercises [standing on one leg] and more functional activities [light jogging, zigzags, figure eights] before returning to activity.

Seek immediate medical attention if you:

  • Have severe pain or swelling
  • Have an open wound or severe deformity
  • Have signs of infection, such as redness, warmth and tenderness in the affected area or a fever greater than 100° F (37.8° C)
  • Cannot put weight on your foot

Self-care

For many ankle injuries, self-care measures ease the pain. Examples include:

  • Rest. Keep weight off your ankle as much as possible. Take a break from your normal activities.
  • Ice. Place an ice pack or bag of frozen peas on your ankle for 15 to 20 minutes three times a day.
  • Compression. Use a compression bandage to reduce swelling.
  • Elevation. Elevate your foot above the level of your heart to help reduce swelling.
  • Over-the-counter pain medications. Drugs such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and naproxen sodium (Aleve) can ease pain and aid healing.

Even with the best of care, you may have some ankle swelling, stiffness or pain, particularly first thing in the morning or after you've been active, for several weeks.

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