Ankle Sprain

ExitCare ImageAn ankle sprain is an injury to the strong, fibrous tissues (ligaments) that hold the bones of your ankle joint together.


An ankle sprain is usually caused by a fall or by twisting your ankle. Ankle sprains most commonly occur when you step on the outer edge of your foot, and your ankle turns inward. People who participate in sports are more prone to these types of injuries.


  • Pain in your ankle. The pain may be present at rest or only when you are trying to stand or walk.

  • Swelling.

  • Bruising. Bruising may develop immediately or within 1 to 2 days after your injury.

  • Difficulty standing or walking, particularly when turning corners or changing directions.


Your caregiver will ask you details about your injury and perform a physical exam of your ankle to determine if you have an ankle sprain. During the physical exam, your caregiver will press on and apply pressure to specific areas of your foot and ankle. Your caregiver will try to move your ankle in certain ways. An X-ray exam may be done to be sure a bone was not broken or a ligament did not separate from one of the bones in your ankle (avulsion fracture).


Certain types of braces can help stabilize your ankle. Your caregiver can make a recommendation for this. Your caregiver may recommend the use of medicine for pain. If your sprain is severe, your caregiver may refer you to a surgeon who helps to restore function to parts of your skeletal system (orthopedist) or a physical therapist.


  • Apply ice to your injury for 1–2 days or as directed by your caregiver. Applying ice helps to reduce inflammation and pain.

  • Put ice in a plastic bag.

  • Place a towel between your skin and the bag.

  • Leave the ice on for 15-20 minutes at a time, every 2 hours while you are awake.

  • Only take over-the-counter or prescription medicines for pain, discomfort, or fever as directed by your caregiver.

  • Elevate your injured ankle above the level of your heart as much as possible for 2–3 days.

  • If your caregiver recommends crutches, use them as instructed. Gradually put weight on the affected ankle. Continue to use crutches or a cane until you can walk without feeling pain in your ankle.

  • If you have a plaster splint, wear the splint as directed by your caregiver. Do not rest it on anything harder than a pillow for the first 24 hours. Do not put weight on it. Do not get it wet. You may take it off to take a shower or bath.

  • You may have been given an elastic bandage to wear around your ankle to provide support. If the elastic bandage is too tight (you have numbness or tingling in your foot or your foot becomes cold and blue), adjust the bandage to make it comfortable.

  • If you have an air splint, you may blow more air into it or let air out to make it more comfortable. You may take your splint off at night and before taking a shower or bath. Wiggle your toes in the splint several times per day to decrease swelling.


  • You have rapidly increasing bruising or swelling.

  • Your toes feel extremely cold or you lose feeling in your foot.

  • Your pain is not relieved with medicine.


  • Your toes are numb or blue.

  • You have severe pain that is increasing.


  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.