How To Heal A Sprained Ankle Fast At Home - Sporty Doctor (2023)

Ankle sprains are common in athletes, but that doesn’t mean they’re not serious. An ankle injury can take you out of the game for a week or more if not treated properly. Get back on your feet faster by following these treatment tips for healing a sprained ankle ASAP.

Sprained ankles make up about a quarter of the injuries seen in sports medicine. They may not be life-threatening, but if you’re an active person staying off your feet for a couple of days can be a lifestyle change. It’s important to administer first aid immediately and start rehab exercises as soon as possible. The way you treat your ankle sprain in the first 24-72 hours can make all the difference in a quicker recovery and lower risk of health complications in the future.

Contents hide

What Causes an Ankle Sprain?

Anatomy of the Ankle

Types of Ankle Sprains

Grade 1 Sprains

Grade 2 Sprains

(Video) RECOVER FASTER! Ankle Sprain Treatment At Home from a Physical Therapist

Grade 3 Sprains

When You Should Seek Medical Attention

Treating an Ankle Sprain with RICE






(Video) STOP Icing Sprained Ankles!

At-Home Physical Therapy for a Sprained Ankle

Rehabilitation in the Early Stages

Middle-Stage Rehab for Ankle Sprains

Continuing with Ankle Rehab

Medications for Ankle Pain Relief

Choosing Orthopedic Treatment Over Surgery for Torn Ligaments

Future Care of Ankle Injuries

What Causes an Ankle Sprain?

According to the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Association, people who play sports are at higher risk for sprains. But you don’t have to be an athlete to experience a rolled ankle. Anything that causes your ankle to roll, twist, or bend at an abnormal angle can cause a mild sprain or worse. The Mayo Clinic finds that other common causes– both in sports and otherwise- include walking on uneven surfaces, falling, landing awkwardly on your foot after jumping or pivoting, or having another person or object land on your foot.

These sports injuries are most often reported in tennis, basketball, football, soccer, volleyball, and cross country running.

Even if you’re not an athlete or weekend warrior, you might be at a higher risk of sustaining a sprained ankle if you:

  • commonly walk on uneven surfaces
  • are in poor physical health
  • wear improper shoes
  • or have suffered foot and ankle injuries in the past
(Video) Ankle sprain: how to heal as fast as possible
How To Heal A Sprained Ankle Fast At Home - Sporty Doctor (1)

Anatomy of the Ankle

The ankle is a complex joint, made up of bones, tendons, and ligaments, which are the tough bands of tissue that run along the inside and outside of your ankle that hold the bones together. They help to stabilize the joint. An ankle sprain occurs when you stretch or tear these ligaments by forcing them into a position that is beyond the normal range.

If foot and ankle health is not maintained properly it can cause secondary injuries higher up the chain. That’s why it’s so important to treat an ankle sprain seriously, even if it means staying off your feet for a few weeks.

Types of Ankle Sprains

Our feet tend to turn inward as we walk, so sprained ankles most commonly happen when the ankle rolls inward, resulting in lateral ankle sprains. These occur when you stretch or tear the ligaments on the outside of your ankle. Medial ankle sprains are less common. This is when you injure the ligaments on the inside of the ankle. A syndesmotic ankle sprain- or high ankle sprain- involves the tearing of the ligaments above the ankle. Though this type does not occur as often, it can be combined with lateral and medial sprains and often takes months to heal.

How To Heal A Sprained Ankle Fast At Home - Sporty Doctor (2)

Grade 1 Sprains

Ankle sprains are classified by the severity of the ligament damage. With a grade 1 sprain, the ligaments are stretched but not torn. You may have mild pain and swelling but should not experience any loss of mobility or instability. You should not need to see a doctor unless you desire medical advice. With a minor sprain, you can begin physical therapy immediately and should be back in action in less than a week.

Grade 2 Sprains

A grade 2 sprain entails some tearing of the ligaments, but not a complete separation. You may experience swelling and pain that ranges from moderate to severe, as well as some joint instability. With this type of injury, you should start by keeping the ankle completely immobilized for several days. Sprained ankle recovery of this type usually takes four to six weeks. You probably don’t need to see a doctor unless the condition doesn’t improve.

Grade 3 Sprains

A grade 3 sprain occurs when the ligament is totally ruptured (or torn apart). Pain, swelling, and joint instability can be so severe that it is not possible to put any weight on the ankle. A doctor visit is often needed for this ankle sprain injury. An immobilization device like a hard cast is necessary for at least 10 days. Needless to say, this type of injury will take the longest to heal- three months or more. In some cases, a severe sprain will require surgery to repair the ligament.

When You Should Seek Medical Attention

Luckily, many acute sports- and exercise-related injuries can be treated at home following the treatment suggestions below. However, a severe sprain may require a health professional or even an immediate visit to one of your local urgent care clinics. If you fear that you might have a broken ankle, ankle fracture, or dislocated ankle, head for the hospital immediately for an X-ray. Other signs that you may need to see a doctor include:

  • Inability to put weight on the ankle, even after a few days of rest.
  • Increased swelling, discoloration, or deformity at the site.
  • Experience extreme pain that cannot be controlled.
  • Paralysis, tingling, or other health issues.

Treating an Ankle Sprain with RICE

How To Heal A Sprained Ankle Fast At Home - Sporty Doctor (3)

For moderate and mild sprains, most family physicians will recommend RICE as the quickest and most effective sprained ankle treatment. This is an acronym for the tried-and-true treatment protocol of rest, ice, compression, and elevation.


Whether your sprained ankle is mild or severe, it’s best to let it rest for roughly 72 hours. This means putting little to no weight on it so that the tissues have a chance to begin healing without becoming re-injured. You may use crutches to keep weight off of the joint.

After this period, you can gradually resume activity. Since exercise is an important part of recovery, many sports medicine doctors will prescribe “relative rest” for a twisted ankle. This means that some movement can be beneficial- like ROM exercises- but you should avoid activities that put extra stress on the joint or cause undue pain.


Cold treatments- also called cryotherapy- are often applied to the injured area as first aid and continuing treatment. Ice can minimize the pain and swelling caused by a sprained ankle. Try to treat initial swelling immediately after the injury by applying ice to your ankle. This can be a slush bath, a store-bought ice pack, or a simple plastic bag filled with ice.

How To Heal A Sprained Ankle Fast At Home - Sporty Doctor (4)

Limit the time you apply ice to 15-20 minutes at a time. Wait two to three hours before reapplying to reduce overexposure and promote faster healing. Avoid direct application of ice by placing a towel between the ice pack and your skin. Slight redness of the skin is common, but you should not experience a mottled or raised reaction.


Compression is important to reduce swelling and promote healing. This can be done with an elastic compression bandage or tape directly after injuring your ankle. Make sure that the wrap offers support while not being so tight that it causes numbness, tingling, or color change. The wrap should be loosened at night and rewrapped in the morning.

Since physical therapy is the best path to a speedy recovery, many doctors will recommend functional support over an immobilizing cast during the rehab process. Studies have shown that people experience a quicker return to activity, a better range of motion, and less swelling.

Functional ankle support is one that allows your sprained ankle some mobility while offering support to the ankle joint. Functional supports include braces, elastic bandages, and tape or sports wrap. You can find a list of my ankle brace recommendations here.


Elevation is another way to control swelling when you have a sprained ankle. Doing this will prevent the pooling of fluid around the joint, which in turn can reduce discomfort, aid in regaining movement, and may help speed up your recovery time.

(Video) Twisted or Rolled Ankle Sprain Treatment: FASTER Home Recovery Time!

To be properly elevated your injured ankle must be positioned above the level of your heart. For the first 24-48 hours try to lie back with your foot elevated for faster recovery. If it’s not feasible to lie down all day, try to keep your leg propped up as high as you comfortably can when seated. At night place a pillow or two under your foot to keep it raised.


The RICE treatment method has more recently been modified to PRICE to include the word protection. To prevent further injury, the sprained ankle should be immobilized immediately after injury and weight-bearing avoided. You may need to use crutches for more serious sprains. As you begin rehabilitation, partially immobilizing the joint with a splint, brace, or tape can prevent you from over-exerting the ligaments while they heal.

A popular question among active people with ankle sprains is whether it’s better to exercise or to keep the ankle completely immobilized until recovery. When it comes to a speedier recovery, many physicians agree that it’s more beneficial for people to begin rehabilitation exercises as soon as possible after a sprain. Exercise increases blood flow to the area which helps in healing the damaged ligaments.

For the ideal at-home PRICE treatment: for one to two days following your injury use an elastic bandage to secure an ice pack around your sprained ankle while sitting back with your leg elevated. Next, it’s time to start with physical therapy rehabilitation.

At-Home Physical Therapy for a Sprained Ankle

Studies have shown that physical therapy and strengthening exercises are the most effective for a quick recovery from ankle sprains and other soft tissue injuries. If you want to help your ankle heal faster, it’s imperative that you start post-injury physiotherapy within 48-72 hours, or as soon as you are physically able.

The National Athletic Trainers Association suggests range-of-motion (ROM), flexibility, and strengthening for the optimal rehab exercise program. The goals of rehabilitation include regaining a full range of motion, strengthening the joint, and improving neuromuscular coordination.

Rehabilitation in the Early Stages

It is okay to walk on a sprained ankle as long as it is stable enough to support your weight and without excessive pain. However, if you are not yet able to put weight on the joint there are gentle exercises you can do to keep your ankle limber in the first 48 hours. These include isometric and ROM exercises which cause contractions of the muscles around the joint. Whether passive (with the aid of your physical therapist) or active (on your own), these should be done as much as tolerated for a few minutes at a time. Examples of ROM exercises are:

  • Dorsiflexion and plantar flexion. This means moving your foot up and down.
  • Tracing the alphabet with your toe.
  • Toe curls- done by picking up a towel with your toes repeatedly.

Once you can tolerate some weight on the ankle, it’s time to focus on stretching, balance, and stability training. These exercises may help you to regain coordination in your ankle muscles, thus preventing recurrent sprains in the future. Some exercises you can do include:

  • Towel stretches
  • Calf stretches
  • Wobble board
  • Stationary biking
  • Hydrotherapy

Middle-Stage Rehab for Ankle Sprains

Once you can tolerably put weight on your injured leg and swelling and pain are manageable, you can begin middle-stage rehab. At this stage, you can continue with your balance and coordination exercises and start including some strengthening exercises. You can also begin to incorporate inversion and eversion stretches into your routine. This means moving your foot from side to side. Some beneficial exercises are:

  • One-leg balance and reaching exercises
  • Squats
  • Calf raises
  • Single leg jumps

Continuing with Ankle Rehab

Continuing with your physical therapy routine, even after your ankle feels better, can reduce your risk of a recurring sprain. Try to do strengthening exercises in reps of 8-12 twice daily, and balance exercises at least once a day for two to four weeks after your injury. And don’t forget to stretch daily, especially before activity.

Medications for Ankle Pain Relief

Anti-inflammatory painkillers can be a helpful aid when you’re recovering from an injury. They can offer relief if your sprain is aching, even when you’re at rest, and also help with pain during and after intense therapy sessions.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (or NSAIDs) you don’t need a doctor to prescribe include ibuprofen or naproxen sodium. These can temporarily reduce swelling and inflammation as they reduce pain. If you have problems taking oral medications you can opt for topical NSAIDs like ointments or gels. These reduce pain and inflammation at the source, and you don’t have to risk them passing through your digestive tract.

Choosing Orthopedic Treatment Over Surgery for Torn Ligaments

I usually recommend holistic treatments over surgery when it comes to health and sports-related injuries, especially if the injury is a minor one. A torn ligament can take weeks to heal, but with the proper RICE treatment and sports therapy, you will be back in action again.

Torn ligaments in the ankle can be sewn back together by an orthopedic surgeon. For a severe ankle sprain that is not responding to treatment or has not improved in six months, this may be an option. Surgery to shorten the ligament may help with ankle stability in the long term. See a doctor for medical advice if you’re considering surgery.

Competitive athletes sometimes opt for surgery to correct torn ligaments in hopes that it will help them to heal faster. However, there is no evidence to support this. Engaging in therapeutic and strengthening exercises as early as possible is the best way to get you back in the game soon.

Future Care of Ankle Injuries

In the sports world, athletes are considered clear to return to gameplay once they’ve regained full mobility, can walk normally, and have regained about 80% of their pre-injury strength. Whether you are revisiting your doctor for a post-injury exam or assessing yourself look for these indicators before resuming normal activities.

If a sprained ankle is not treated properly people can experience complications in the future. To help prevent future ankle sprains, continue to work on building ankle strength and flexibility, wear properly fitted shoes, and consider wearing an ankle brace. If you’re worried about possible diseases, conditions, sprained ankle abnormalities, or long term health information, seek medical advice from your doctor.

I hope this advice can help to heal your ankle at home faster and get you back up and running!

(Video) Exercises for an ankle sprain to help you recover quickly


How do you fix a sprained ankle ASAP? ›

  1. Rest. Avoid activities that cause pain, swelling or discomfort.
  2. Ice. Use an ice pack or ice slush bath immediately for 15 to 20 minutes and repeat every two to three hours while you're awake. ...
  3. Compression. To help stop swelling, compress the ankle with an elastic bandage until the swelling stops. ...
  4. Elevation.
Aug 11, 2022

What does Dr do for sprained ankle? ›

Depending upon the grade of injury, your doctor may recommend a cast boot, air splint, and/or crutches. Even a complete ligament tear can heal without surgical repair if it is immobilized appropriately. Your doctor may tell you to incorporate motion early in the healing process to prevent stiffness.

What is a good home remedy for a sprained ankle? ›

Ice: Apply cold to the ankle several times a day to help reduce pain and swelling. Compression: Apply a static or elastic compression bandage to help limit swelling. Elevation: Reduce the flow of blood and other fluids to the injury site by elevating the ankle above the heart.

How do you fix a sprain at home? ›

Rest – stop any exercise or activities and try not to put any weight on the injury. Ice – apply an ice pack (or a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a tea towel) to the injury for up to 20 minutes every 2 to 3 hours. Compression – wrap a bandage around the injury to support it.

What helps ligaments heal faster? ›

Early medical treatment for knee ligament injury may include:
  • Rest.
  • Ice pack application (to reduce swelling that happens within hours of the injury)
  • Compression (from an elastic bandage or brace)
  • Elevation.
  • Pain relievers.

Can you speed up sprained ankle recovery? ›

Heat. Heat increases blood flow to an injury, which can speed healing. Some people also find that it helps relax tight muscles, easing pain and tension.

How do doctors treat sprains? ›

Upon diagnosing the nature and severity of an injury, there are three methods by which your orthopedic doctor may treat it.
  • PRICE Method. Most cases of sprains and strains respond well to the PRICE method. ...
  • Protection. ...
  • Rest. ...
  • Ice. ...
  • Compression. ...
  • Elevation. ...
  • Immobilization And Surgery. ...
  • Physical Therapy.

Will a doctor wrap a sprained ankle? ›

To help control swelling, some doctors recommend wrapping your ankle with an elastic bandage, also called a tensor wrap. This product can be purchased at most pharmacies.

Should I go to the ER for a sprained ankle? ›

If there is obvious boney deformity, severe immediate swelling, inability to walk, and severe boney tenderness, seek immediate medical attention. The majority of ankle sprains respond well to conservative care.

Is hot water good for sprained ankle? ›

Treatment for a Sprained Ankle

So, typically, ice decreases blood flow to an area, which causes less swelling, whereas heat will bring blood flow to an area which can cause more swelling. Usually, in the first two to three days after an injury, we would recommend ice only.

Can I massage my sprained ankle? ›

Some research points to the answer being a resounding yes — you should massage a sprained ankle. This includes a 2017 study , which found that massaging the calf muscle can help improve the ankle's flexibility, as well as your ability to balance on the ankle joint.

What not to do with a sprained ankle? ›

DON'T do activities that will increase swelling. Avoid early use of heat or too much activity, standing, or sitting with the ankle hanging. DON'T play sports again until pain and swelling are gone and the ankle is strong.

Does vinegar help sprained ankle? ›

One of the best natural remedies for the resorption of a hematoma produced by a sprain is the red clay poultice with red wine vinegar. It is used since ancient times and is excellent, not only for sprains, but for any bruise that must be reabsorbed.

What is a Grade 1 ankle sprain? ›

Grade 1: Stretching or slight tearing of the ligament with mild tenderness, swelling and stiffness. The ankle feels stable and it is usually possible to walk with minimal pain. Grade 2: A more severe sprain, but incomplete tear with moderate pain, swelling and bruising.

Is it OK to walk on a sprain? ›

While it is possible to walk on a sprained ankle, it isn't recommended. Walking on a sprained ankle can delay the healing process and increase your risk for complications. Ankle pain, instability, and arthritis are common complications of a sprained ankle.

What vitamin helps ligament repair? ›

Vitamin C – also known as ascorbic acid, is a key vitamin for ligament repair and collagen production. It is recommended to increase your intake of vitamin C immediately after an injury to help support the healing process as it directly assists in wound healing and tissue repair.

What vitamin helps ligament healing? ›

It has been described that vitamin C (VC) is important in tendon and ligament healing, mainly due to its antioxidant properties and its function as a cofactor for collagen synthesis [1,2,3,4].

Does a Torn Ligament show up on xray? ›

Traditional X-rays don't view ligament damage and even more advanced scans like CTs and MRIs cannot visualize something as complex as ligament damage because they don't capture the ligament in motion but you don't have to suffer with ligament pain.

What worsens a sprained ankle? ›

Putting too much pressure on a sprained ankle could worsen the sprain, cause more discomfort and prolong healing time.

What cream is good for sprained ankle? ›

It recommends using a topical nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) with or without menthol (which creates a cooling sensation). Topical NSAIDs come in gel, liquid, or patch forms; diclofenac gel (Voltaren Arthritis Pain) and aspirin cream are available without a prescription.

Why is my ankle sprain not healing? ›

"An ankle sprain that lingers beyond 3 months is often an injury to a bone, tendon or ligament that is unlikely to heal without intervention," he says. "And the longer an ankle injury persists without proper treatment, the greater the likelihood that permanent disability will result."

How long should you stay off a sprained ankle? ›

Your provider will give you exercises to strengthen your foot and ankle. Doing these exercises can help prevent future sprains and chronic ankle pain. For less severe sprains, you may be able to go back to your normal activities after a few days. For more severe sprains, it may take several weeks.

What doctor should I go to for sprain? ›

If your symptoms after a suspected sprain are severe (i.e. weakness, pain, swelling), you should seek medical care by an orthopedic physician. It's never a good idea to self-diagnose yourself. People have different pain tolerance levels and you may have a significant injury that needs treatment without even knowing it.

How do you treat a sprained ankle in 24 hours? ›

For the majority of ankle sprains, healthcare providers recommend using the PRICE method for the first 24-48 hours after injury. PRICE stands for protection, rest, ice, compression and elevation. Protection. Use crutches or apply a splint or brace to limit use of your injured ankle.

Is it OK to walk on a sprained ankle? ›

If you've just sprained your ankle, you might be wondering if it's OK to walk on it. The answer that most medical professionals may give you is no. In fact, suggest that immobilizing the foot and limiting weight-bearing activities for up to two weeks is the best course of action for a newly sprained ankle.

How do you treat a sprained ankle after 24 hours? ›

After the first 24 hours, apply ice 20 minutes 3 to 4 times per day. Do not apply ice directly to your skin. You should wait at least 30 minutes in between ice applications. Pain medicines, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, may help to ease pain and swelling.

How long does it take for a sprained ankle to heal on its own? ›

How Long Does a Sprained Ankle Take to Heal? Mild, low-grade ankle sprains will usually heal in one to three weeks with proper rest and non-surgical care (such as applying ice). Moderate injuries may take between three and four weeks.

Can an ankle sprain heal in 2 days? ›

After 2 to 3 days

protocol, a mild sprain will be mostly healed and ready for you to resume normal activity. A moderate or severe sprain may require you to keep up these treatment steps for longer—up to several weeks.

Can a sprained ankle heal in 1 days? ›

The pain and swelling of an ankle sprain most often gets better within 48 hours. After that, you can begin to put weight back on your injured foot. Put only as much weight on your foot as is comfortable at first.

How bad is a Grade 1 ankle sprain? ›

Grade 1: Stretching or slight tearing of the ligament with mild tenderness, swelling and stiffness. The ankle feels stable and it is usually possible to walk with minimal pain. Grade 2: A more severe sprain, but incomplete tear with moderate pain, swelling and bruising.


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