An ankle sprain is an injury to a ligament caused by excessive stretching. The ligament can have a partial tear, or it can be completely torn apart. Of all sprains, ankle and knee sprains occur most often. Sprained ligaments swell rapidly and are painful, so the greater the pain, the greater the likelihood that a severe injury has occurred. Get emergency medical assistance if:
- You are unable to bear any weight on the injured ankle,
- The ankle joint area feels unstable and cannot be used. This may mean the ligament was completely torn.
First Aid for any ankle sprain begins with compressing the injury.
- Apply an ace bandage to the ankle. Wrap the ace bandage starting at the toes around the ankle ending above the ankle on the leg. If the ankle begins to throb, loosen the wrap. Specially designed elastic or neoprene sleeves can be purchased that also work well.
- Ice should be applied immediately, and should continue to be applied for 20 minutes every 2 hours.
- Protect injured ligaments during the healing process by using an ankle stirrup, ankle brace or crutches as needed.
- Elevating the ankle will help decrease swelling. Raise the ankle above the heart by propping it on pillows, on a chair, or against the wall.
After a couple of days, gently begin using the injured ankle. You should feel a gradual, progressive improvement. Over-the-counter pain relievers may help manage minor pain during the healing process. See your doctor after two or three days if pain worsens, or the sprain shows no sign of improvement.