Although we've all heard the phrase, "It's only a sprain," the truth is that a bad sprain can be more painful and take longer to heal than a broken bone. Sprained ankles happen when the ankle twists or rolls and the surrounding ligaments are pulled past their normal range. Sprained ankles might appear bruised and swollen, and are certainly painful! Follow these steps for the quickest healing of a sprained ankle.
- Rest. Do not walk on your sprained ankle. This is the perfect excuse to sit down and put your feet up! If you must get around, use crutches. Resting a sprain completely for at least 24 hours is essential for quick healing.
- Apply ice. Ice can be applied for 20 to 30 minutes at a time, no longer. Doing this four or more times during the first day can help keep swelling down. In lieu of ice, bags of frozen vegetables can be used. Wrap the ice pack or frozen vegetables in a dish towel or paper towel, so that it is not too cold on your skin.
- Apply compression. Elastic compression bandages or wraps can be used to support and immobilize your sprained ankle. These are available at most drugstores. After wrapping your ankle, if it becomes numb or tingly, rewrap it more loosely.
- Elevate the ankle. Elevate your ankle - preferably above your heart - for the first 48 hours after the injury.
- Apply heat. After the first day or two, you may apply dry or wet heat if this helps relieve the pain.
- Use crutches or a cane. Your doctor can let you know if these are necessary and how to use them correctly.
- Take over the counter pain relievers. Acetaminophen and ibuprofen can be used for pain relief. For a particularly painful sprain, your doctor might prescribe stronger pain relievers.
- Don't decide to suffer through the pain. Continuing to walk on a sprained ankle can cause even more damage, which can be long-lasting.
Of course, if your sprained ankle remains painful or doesn't improve in the first few days, you should seek out medical advice immediately. Otherwise, just plan to be less active in the near future.