Treatment for a sprained ankle depends on the severity of your injury. Many people simply treat their injuries at home.
In most cases, over-the-counter pain relievers — such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), naproxen (Aleve, others) or acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) — are enough to manage the pain of a sprained ankle.
Because walking with a sprained ankle might be painful, you may need to use crutches until the pain subsides. Your doctor might also recommend that you use a removable plastic device such as a splint.
Once the swelling goes down, a physical therapist can help you with exercises to restore your ankle's range of motion, strength, flexibility and balance.
Balance and stability training is especially important to retrain the ankle muscles to work together to support the joint. These exercises may involve various degrees of balance challenge, such as standing on one leg.
If you sprained your ankle while exercising or participating in a sport, talk to your doctor about when you can resume your activity. You may need to wear an ankle brace or wrap your ankle to protect it from re-injury.
Surgical and other procedures
If your ankle joint is unstable, your doctor may refer you to a musculoskeletal specialist for evaluation. You may need a cast or walking boot to immobilize your joint so that it can heal properly. In rare cases of severe ligament tears, particularly in elite athletes, your doctor might recommend surgery to repair the damage.
Aug. 21, 2014
- Sprained ankle. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://www.orthoinfo.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00150. Accessed June 9, 2014.
- Maughan KL. Ankle sprain. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 9, 2014.
- Kaminski TW, et al. National Athletic Trainers' Association position statement: Conservative management and prevention of ankle sprains in athletes. Journal of Athletic Training. 2013;48:528.
- How to care for a sprained ankle. American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society. http://www.aofas.org/footcaremd/how-to/foot-injury/Pages/How%20to%20Care%20for%20a%20Sprained%20Ankle.aspx?PF=1. Accessed June 9, 2014.
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