How to Treat a Sprained, Strained or Twisted Ankle


An ankle sprain or strain can be just as painful as a broken bone. Sprains occur when you overextend the muscles and ligaments around a joint. Treatment involves rest, ice, compression and elevation -- four basic first-aid elements that medical professionals abbreviate as RICE. All these measures will minimize swelling and bruising and will speed healing.

Things You'll Need

  • Pillows and cushions
  • Ice pack
  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Compression bandage or brace
  • Get off your feet as soon as you can after hurting your ankle, and certainly if you see swelling or bruising around the joint. Do not put any weight on the injured area, and get help if you need to move to a comfortable location.

  • Lean back and elevate the injured foot so that it is above your heart. Pile up pillows, cushions, and folded blankets or towels and rest your ankle on them.

  • Place cloth-covered ice packs on the sprained ankle for one 20-minute stretch every hour of the 24 hours after your injury. Do not leave the ice on your ankle continually, and keep a cloth barrier between the ice and your skin so as not to risk frostbite.

  • Take an anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen, aspirin or naproxen.

  • Wrap your ankle with a compression bandage or brace after the first 24 hours have passed. The bandage will keep the joint stable and will allow you to begin putting weight on it again.

  • Stay off your feet as much as possible. Stand and walk only as necessary until the pain subsides.

  • Resume normal activities without a brace or bandage once the swelling and bruising go down to strengthen your ankle as soon as possible.

Tips & Warnings

  • Seek medical attention if after 24 hours your ankle is still too tender to bear weight and the swelling worsens.
  • Avoid running and other weight-bearing sports for at least one to two weeks after the injury.
  • Don't risk re-injuring the ankle by resuming sports activity too soon. If you repeatedly strain the same ankle, you are at risk for weakening the ankle and having a higher risk of injury.

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  • “American Medical Association Handbook of First Aid and Emergency Care”; American Medical Association; 2009
  • Photo Credit Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images
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