Learn how to treat and prevent a sprained ankle.


Learn how to treat and prevent a sprained ankle.

The Symptoms

Common ankle sprain: After “rolling” or “twisting” your ankle, mild sprains (grade 1) cause tolerable pain, some swelling and some difficulty walking. Severe sprains (grade 3) bring on incredible pain, possible ligament rupture, swelling, bruising and total joint instability.

High ankle sprain: Usually occurs when the foot is inverted and twisted. It results in swelling and bruising on the top and outer side of the ankle, plus the usual ankle-sprain symptoms.

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Fix It

Apply first aid. For any sprain, ice and elevation for the swelling will help (don’t ice an ankle for more than 15 minutes at a time). For anything above a grade 1 sprain, crutches are a good idea. As the sprain heals, compression with, for example, an elastic bandage can help with internal bleeding and swelling.

Employ dynamic rest. Stay fit with upper-body work. Depending on the severity of your sprain, try swimming or running in a pool.

Try an NSAID. An anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen or naproxen can help with pain and inflammation.

Move it. For simple sprains, as the pain becomes tolerable, perform basic range-of-motion exercises. During the first week, do only the following: Pull the foot upward, then point it away. Any side-to-side or rotating movement could aggravate the injured ligaments. After a week, add in rotation. With your ankle elevated, do ankle circles in one direction, then the other. Go slow at first if the injury is still painful, but up the speed and reps as the injury heals. This will help you get back the full range of motion.

When To Call A Doctor

If pain and swelling are severe, see a doctor to gauge how bad the damage is. Many things can go along with an ankle sprain—there are a lot of moving parts in the foot, including the tendons, cartilage and bones.

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Prevent It

No one can totally prevent an ankle sprain, but you can do certain stretches and exercises to improve ankle stability and your overall balance—which lowers your injury chances. The stretches and exercises belowall target your lower leg and can be added to any workout.
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Straight-Leg Calf Stretch
Stand about 2 feet in front of a wall in a staggered stance, right foot in front of your left. Place your hands on the wall and lean against it. Shift your weight to your back foot until you feel a stretch in your calf. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds on each side, then repeat twice for a total of three sets. Perform this routine daily, and up to three times a day if you’re really tight.

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Bent-Leg Calf Stretch
Perform this the same as the straight-leg calf stretch (above), only move your back foot forward so the toes of that foot are even with the heel of your front foot. Keeping your heels down, bend both knees until you feel a comfortable stretch just above the ankle of your back leg. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds on each side, then repeat twice for a total of three sets. Perform this routine daily, and up to three times a day if you’re really tight.

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‚Calf Roll
Place a foam roller under your right ankle, with your right leg straight. Cross your left leg over your right ankle. Put your hands flat on the floor for support and keep your back naturally arched. Roll your body forward until the roller reaches the back of your right knee. Then roll back and forth. Repeat with the roller under your left calf. (If this is too hard, perform the movement with both legs on the roller.)

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New York City sports medicine specialist Jordan D. Metzl, M.D. is a 29-time marathon finisher and 10-time Ironman. His book, The Athlete’s Book of Home Remedies, has more than 1,000 tips to fix all types of injuries and medical conditions.