How to Reduce Ankle Sprain Swelling

An ankle sprain refers to an injury to one or more of the ligaments on the outer portion of the ankle 3. Ankle sprains can range in severity from mild ligament stretching to more serious ligament tearing. Swelling and pain frequently accompany an ankle sprain 14. Treating these symptoms can reduce your symptoms and minimize ankle instability that can occur after an ankle sprain.

Is This an Emergency?

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

Rest the ankle immediately following injury to prevent further swelling and allow the ligaments to heal. While the amount of rest required may vary from person to person, rest the ankle until swelling is all or nearly gone and the ankle is not tender to the touch.

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Apply an ice pack to the ankle. Ice or cold therapy constricts blood vessels and reduces swelling. Be sure to cover the ice pack with a protective cloth or plastic bag in order to prevent cold burns. Leave the ice pack on for 10 to 15 minutes at a time, every three to four hours. Continue for two to three days after injury.

Elevate the foot above the heart for 48 hours after injury to reduce swelling in your ankle. Use several comfortable pillows or another prop to keep the foot elevated.

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Wrap your ankle with an elastic compression wrap to reduce swelling. Leave one finger-width between the wrap and your skin to avoid wrapping too tightly. Wear the wrap while you are awake.

Take a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication, or NSAID, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Naprosyn, Aleve) to reduce inflammation. Use only as directed.


During the first 24 hours after injury, avoid the following activities: taking a hot shower, using heat rubs, applying a heating pad or drinking alcohol. Consult your doctor before you take aspirin -- it can thin your blood and cause bleeding.


Seek medical attention if you can't bear weight on your leg, or you can't move your ankle after injury.