Health A-Z

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The first treatment for an ankle sprain is usually RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation):

  • Rest the ankle and stop putting weight on it.

  • Apply ice packs to the sprained ankle for 20- to 30-minute periods every 3 or 4 hours.

  • Apply compression to the injury with an elastic wrap (but do not wrap so tightly that you block circulation and lose feeling in your toes).

  • Elevate the injured ankle by propping up the leg.

For severe sprains, you may need a brace for protection and stability. You may need crutches until you can walk without pain. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help to control pain and swelling. An orthopedist should evaluate people with Grade II or Grade III sprains. Grade III sprains with complete tears of the ligaments may require surgery to repair the injured ligaments.

In most cases, follow-up rehabilitative exercises are vital to restore strength and range of motion in the sprained ankle. These exercises should also help to prevent future ankle injuries.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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