How to Manage a Sprained Ankle

February 3, 2021 | By: Raleigh Orthopaedic Team

Ankle sprains can range from minor to severe and treatment will depend on the severity and location of the injury. When looking to treat your specific injury it is important to understand the symptoms, home treatment options, and when to see a doctor. Understanding these factors will give you the best chance at making informed decisions for your personal health.

What is an Ankle Sprain?

The ankle is one of the most commonly used joints in the human body. Because of this, damage to the ankle is quite common. An ankle sprain refers specifically to damage incurred by the ligaments, of which there are many, in your ankle. The most common form of an ankle sprain is caused by a rolling of the ankle towards the inside of the foot. This leads to the 3  ligaments on the outside of the ankle, the anterior talofibular ligament, the calcaneofibular ligament, and the posterior talofibular ligament, to tear or stretch. Most ankle sprains are minor injuries and will resolve themselves without issue, however, in more severe cases professional assistance may be needed.

How do I Know if I Sprained My Ankle?

Damage to your ankle can be quite scary. We are constantly moving and anything that hinders us from what we love is more than just and annoyance. Below is a list of symptoms for sprained ankles, if you are experiencing any of these after a traumatic event to your ankle it is most likely that you have a sprain and will be back up and moving in no time!

  • swelling and bruising
  • pain
  • instability
  • redness and warmth
  • trouble walking
  • popping sensation or similar sound at the time of the injury
  • Limited range of motion

How to Manage an Ankle Sprain

Luckly, ankle sprains are very common and often not harmful, and although they may cause severe pain and discomfort, most ankle sprains will resolve themselves on their own. There are a few steps you can take to ensure the fastest recovery possible.

R.I.C.E. Method for Sprains

R.I.C.E. therapy in an acronym for the four elements of the most tried and true guideline for dealing with soft tissue injuries: rest, ice, compression, and elevation.


One of the most important things to do after you have sprained your ankle is to prevent further damage. Although most ankle sprains are not severe, pushing your ligaments after they have already experienced trauma is a bad idea. Continuing to do so could lead to longer heal times and tearing of the ligaments. Using the RICE method below is the best way to ensure a speedy and safe recovery at home.


Ice is a great way to help reduce pain and relive some to the swelling. You should begin icing your ankle as soon as possible once you realize you have been injured and continue to do so every 2-3 hours for 15 to 20 minutes. Please keep in mind that while Ice will help reduce swelling immediately after an injury, frequent use of ice during the recovery period may slow the healing process.


You can use an elastic band around your ankle to help reduce swelling. Be sure to not wrap your ankle so tight as to prevent circulation.


Raising your ankle to the level of your heart will help drain excess fluid and reduce swelling. This is especially beneficial at night.

Medication options

Over the counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen are usually enough to manage the pain of a sprained ankle and help out with the swelling.

When to See a Doctor

Sometimes ankle sprains can go beyond the usual minor injury. When more severe sprains occur it is wise to seek medical attention as more treatment may be necessary. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms below it is wise to visit your doctor or go to an orthopedic urgent care center.

A Popping Sound

Upon injury of your ankle it is possible that you may have heard a popping sound. This can be an indication that the ligament has torn and will need medical assistance to be resolved.

Inability to Stand

Although all sprains are painful to stand on, more severe ones can make it impossible to stand up. Severe instability is a sign that a sprain itself is untenable to recover on its own – you will need to see a doctor to find out the exact nature of the injury.

Pale or Blue Foot

This could indicate that you did more damage to your ankle than just the ligaments. If your foot appears to be experiencing blood flow restriction problems, contact a doctor or urgent care immediately.

Pins and Needles or Loss of Feeling

Like anywhere else in your body nerves control what you feel. If these symptoms present it is possible that the nerves were also damaged upon injury.

Foot and Ankle Doctors For the Triangle Community

Your well-being is important to us. Raleigh Orthopaedic is Wake County’s oldest and most experienced orthopedic practice, serving the Triangle and surrounding regions of central North Carolina since 1919. Raleigh Orthopaedic offers online scheduling so click the button below or call us at (919) 781-5600 to schedule an appointment with one of our orthopedic specialists. If your injury or condition is recent, you can walk right into one of our Raleigh Orthopaedic Urgent Care locations for immediate care. For rehabilitation and physical therapy, no referral is needed to see one of our physical therapists.