Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit, the AAFP patient education website.

Information from Your Family Doctor

How to Care for Your Ankle Sprain


Am Fam Physician. 2012 Jun 15;85(12):online.

  See related article on ankle sprains.

How do I treat my sprained ankle?

There are several things you should do to help your ankle heal:


Gently stretch the ankle in all directions while you are sitting down. Do this at least three times per day.


Walking will make the ankle heal faster and stronger. If you can put weight on your ankle, try walking around the house or a longer distance, if pain allows.

Apply ice

Put ice or cold packs on the ankle for 10 to 20 minutes. Do this every two hours while you are awake, until the swelling is gone.

Wear a brace

If your doctor gives you a brace or air cast, wear it for four weeks when you are walking.

Take medicine, if needed

If you need medicine to help with the pain, there are several over-the-counter options, such as acetaminophen (one brand: Tylenol), ibuprofen (one brand: Motrin), or aspirin. Ask your doctor how much medicine you should be taking.


After your ankle heals, you should exercise to prevent future sprains. Try doing these exercises for 10 to 15 minutes every other day:

  • Balance on one leg for 30 to 60 seconds

  • Balance on one leg and play catch with a partner

  • Move your ankle in all directions against an elastic band

  • Stand with one foot forward, then jump and land with the other foot forward

  • Stand with your toes on a low step, drop your heels down, and then raise them up

  • Squat down, then jump up and land softly

This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.


Copyright © 2012 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP. Contact for copyright questions and/or permission requests.

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