Skip to Content

Ankle Sprain, Ambulatory Care

An ankle sprain

happens when 1 or more ligaments in your ankle joint stretch or tear. It is usually caused by a direct injury or sudden twisting of the joint.

Common symptoms include the following:

  • Trouble moving your ankle or foot
  • Pain when you touch or put weight on your ankle
  • Bruised, swollen, or odd shaped ankle

Seek immediate care for the following symptoms:

  • Severe pain in your ankle
  • Cold or numb foot or toes
  • A weaker ankle
  • Swelling that has increased or returned

Treatment for an ankle sprain

may include a supportive device, such as a brace, cast, or splint. These devices limit movement and protect your joint. You may also need to use crutches to decrease your pain as you move around. Treatment may also include pain medicine, physical therapy, or surgery if the ligament does not heal.

Care for an ankle sprain:

  • Rest your joint so that it can heal. Return to normal activities as directed.
  • Ice helps decrease swelling and pain. Ice may also help prevent tissue damage. Use an ice pack or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover the ice pack with a towel and place it on your injured ligament for 15 to 20 minutes every hour. Use the ice for as long as directed.
  • Compression of an elastic bandage provides support and helps decrease swelling and movement so your joint can heal. Ask if you should wrap an elastic bandage around your injured ligament. Wear as long as directed.
  • Elevate your injured ankle raised above the level of your heart as often as you can. This will help decrease or limit swelling. Elevate your ankle by resting it on pillows.

Prevent another ankle sprain:

  • Return to your usual activities as directed. If you start activity too soon, you may develop a more serious injury.
  • Take it slow. Slowly increase how often and how long you exercise. Sudden increases may cause you to overstretch or tear your ligament.
  • Always warm up and stretch before you exercise or play sports.
  • Use the proper equipment. Always wear shoes that fit well and are made for the activity that you are doing. You may need to use 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.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.