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Ankle Sprain


An ankle sprain happens when 1 or more ligaments in your ankle joint stretch or tear. Ligaments are tough tissues that connect bones. Ligaments support your joints and keep your bones in place.


Return to the emergency department if:

  • You have severe pain in your ankle.
  • Your foot or toes are cold or numb.
  • Your ankle becomes more weak or unstable (wobbly).
  • You are unable to put any weight on your ankle or foot.
  • Your swelling has increased or returned.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • Your pain does not go away, even after treatment.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


You may need any of the following:

  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Acetaminophen decreases pain. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask how to take this medicine safely.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Self care:

  • Use support devices, such as a brace, cast, or splint, may be needed to limit your movement and protect your joint. You may need to use crutches to decrease your pain as you move around.
  • Go to physical therapy as directed. A physical therapist teaches you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain.
  • Rest your ankle so that it can heal. Return to normal activities as directed.
  • Apply ice on your ankle for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain.
  • Compress your ankle. Ask if you should wrap an elastic bandage around your injured ligament. An elastic bandage provides support and helps decrease swelling and movement so your joint can heal. Wear as long as directed.
  • Elevate your ankle above the level of your heart as often as you can. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Prop your ankle on pillows or blankets to keep it elevated comfortably.

Prevent another ankle sprain:

  • Let your ankle heal. Find out how long your ligament needs to heal. Do not do any physical activity until your healthcare provider says it is okay. If you start activity too soon, you may develop a more serious injury.
  • Always warm up and stretch before you exercise or play sports.
  • Use the right equipment. Always wear shoes that fit well and are made for the activity that you are doing. You may also need ankle supports, elbow and knee pads, or braces.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.