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How to Best Help a Sprained Ankle

A sprained ankle is an injury in which you either stretch or tear your ligament 2. It commonly occurs during sporting events, where it is easy to twist or roll your ankle while running on an uneven surface or quickly shifting your balance. According to, treatment for a sprained ankle depends on the severity of the injury 2. A doctor will be able to tell you exactly how you should handle the injury. Though most sprains can be treated at home, some may require splits, physical therapy and surgery.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

Apply an ice pack wrapped in a towel to the ankle immediately. Keep it there for no longer than 20 to 30 minutes to keep down the swelling while you're transported to the doctor's office or hospital.

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Visit the doctor or emergency room as soon as possible. The doctor will perform X-rays to confirm that your ankle is sprained, not broken, and determine the severity of the sprain 2. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the doctor may also order an MRI if he suspects the sprain is very severe 3.

Listen to and follow your doctor's instructions, especially if you have a Grade 3 sprain. This type of sprain requires more intensive care, including a cast or splint, physical therapy and possibly surgery. Traditional treatments for sprained ankles will likely worsen this type of injury.

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Rest your ankle for one week if you have a Grade 1 or Grade 2 sprain. Keep it elevated above your heart level for the first 48 hours. Avoid all but the most minimal activity on it for the rest of the week, using crutches if necessary.

Apply additional ice packs wrapped in towels to keep the swelling down. Place an ice pack on your ankle for 20 to 30 minutes at a time, four times a day.

Wrap your ankle in a compression bandage to give it extra support. Your doctor should be able to show you the best method of wrapping your particular sprain. It varies from injury to injury.

Take over-the-counter painkillers, such as ibuprofen, to ease the aching and throbbing. Follow the instructions on the packaging for best results, and consult your doctor if the recommended dose isn't easing your discomfort.


Ease back into day-to-day life, especially sports and other such activities. Get clearance from your doctor before removing the bandages and resuming your usual activities. The healing process generally takes 4 to 6 weeks for a Grade 1 or Grade 2 sprain, but your doctor may recommend that you wait longer or wear a supportive brace or bandage while being active.