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Foot Injuries

How to Treat an Ankle Sprain

You have sprained your ankle if you've torn tissue -- a muscle, tendon, or ligament. Many people confuse a sprain with a strain, which is an uncomfortable condition caused by overstretching these tissues. Ankle sprains are more serious foot injuries and can make movement very painful.

For Your Information...
The good news with any sprain is that you can get treatment before permanent trouble sets in.

With sophisticated diagnostic techniques, doctors can detect even the smallest tears in soft tissue.

Because small blood vessels in the area rupture as well, the discomfort is often compounded by swelling and tenderness. Sprains are common in athletes, in people who are overweight or double-jointed, and in pregnant women. The following tips will help you treat an ankle sprain.

In some sprains, tissue is only partially torn, while in others the rupture is more severe. Pain is a good indicator of the severity of the injury. Fortunately, most tears will heal on their own if cared for properly.

If you suspect anything more than a mild strain, have the ankle checked by a physician. To care for a sprained ankle, take the following steps, unless your physician directs you otherwise:

  • Rest the foot for a day or two, keeping it elevated.

  • Apply ice packs for 15 minutes once every hour over the first 24-hour period or until swelling subsides.

  • Use an elastic bandage that will compress the ankle. (However, if you are diabetic or have circulation problems, you should not use elastic bandages without a doctor's approval.)

  • When you can do so without great pain, gently exercise the ankle by slowly rotating and flexing your foot.

Even after your sprain heals, the ankle will be more susceptible to additional strains and sprains. To prevent re-injury, wear shoes that provide good support in the ankle area, particularly when you're playing sports. You might also want to tape the ankle during athletic activity. If you do sustain repeated lateral ankle sprains, you may need to wear custom-made orthotics or even have surgery.

Injured tendons are another source of foot pain that is similar to a strain or sprain. Learn more on the next page.

To learn more about treating and avoiding problems with your feet, visit:

  • Everyday Foot Problems: Discover what causes some of the most commonly encountered foot problems, as well as how to treat or avoid them.
  • How to Care for Your Feet: Learn how to keep your feet -- and yourself -- healthy and happy with these tips on caring for your feet, including selecting the right shoes.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.