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What To Do If You Have A Sprained Ankle

Ankle sprains can affect people at every level of activity, from professional athletes to the most sedentary. In fact, a sprained ankle is among the most common of orthopedic injuries. About 25,000 ankle sprains occur every day in the United States alone.  

If you think you have a severely sprained ankle, schedule an appointment with your doctor. If the sprain is moderate, then follow the self-care steps below to treat the ankle:

  • Rest – avoid using the ankle if it causes pain or discomfort
  • Ice – place an ice pack on the sprain for about 20 min. Repeat this process every few hours
  • Compression – if swelling occurs, wrap the ankle in a bandage to reduce the swelling. Do not wrap so tightly that circulation is cut off.
  • Elevation – keep your ankle above heart level. Gravity will help reduce the swelling

Other Ways To Treat A Sprained Ankle

If the sprained ankle is severe, your doctor will schedule image scans. This will tell the doctor what course of treatment you may need. Some other treatment options are:

Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen sodium (Aleve, others) or acetaminophen (Tylenol, others)  are sufficient in most cases to manage a sprained ankle’s pain.

Braces/Crutches: Because it may be painful to walk with a sprained ankle, you may need to use crutches until the pain stops. Your doctor may recommend an elastic bandage, sports tape or an ankle support brace to stabilize the ankle depending on the severity of the sprain. A cast or walking boot may be required in the case of a severe sprain to immobilize the ankle while the tendon heals.

Physical Therapy: Once the swelling and pain are sufficiently reduced to resume movement, your doctor will ask you to start a series of exercises to restore the range of motion, strength, flexibility, and stability of your ankle. Your physician or physical therapist will explain the appropriate exercise method and progression.

Surgery: In rare cases, surgery occurs when the injury does not heal, or the ankle remains unstable after a long period of physical therapy and rehabilitation.

If you have a sprained ankle and your ankle does not improve after a couple of days of self-care, call your doctor to schedule an appointment to discuss other treatments. 

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