How to Treat a Sprained Ankle at Home for Fast Recovery

Just remember this acronym: R.I.C.E.

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Just because your sprained ankle isn’t severe enough to warrant a trip to the doctor or ER doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take it seriously. Sprains happen when you tear the fibers of the ligament, making a painful and unwanted interruption to your company’s annual softball game. Errr, call it a tie game?

Even if your ankle sprain seems minor, you’ll want to pamper your ankle with the royal treatment for a few days to speed up healing and reduce the risk of re-injuring yourself. If you ignore that swollen ankle and skip treatment, you can kiss next week’s hiking trip goodbye.

To get back on your feet the safe way, try following the acronym R.I.C.E. to treat your sprained ankle.

  • REST your ankle as much as possible for two days. That doesn’t mean you need to camp out in your bed watching HGTV marathons. It just means to keep weight off your ankle whenever possible: use crutches, take the elevator, skip the weekend trip to the mall, and let someone else take the dog for his evening walk. FYI, you can still stay active in other ways, like doing arm exercises or stretches.

  • ICE your ankle for 15 minutes four to eight times a day until all that puffiness goes down. Grab an ice pack, make an ice bath, or opt for a classic bag of frozen peas.

  • COMPRESS your ankle using a wrap, bandage, or sleeve (look for elastic or neoprene if possible).

  • ELEVATE the ankle above the heart whenever possible. This will help with the swelling during an ankle sprain.

It’s A-OK to take OTC meds if your sprained ankle is giving you pain. Here are the differences between common OTC painkillers you should know about.

Of course, if your sprained ankle is giving you serious grief—numbness, redness, red streaks, or an inability to bear any weight—it’s time to call a doctor.

Some sprains may heal within a week, but others may take more time. “People are often surprised that their ankle sprain takes six weeks to feel better,” says orthopedic surgeon Barbara Bergin, MD, of Texas Orthopedics in Austin. “That’s just the amount of time it takes for our old joints and ligaments to get over it.”

As much as you don’t want to miss tomorrow’s bowling tournament, you’ll be glad you took the time to prop your foot up and rest. If nothing else, it’s an excuse to watch another home makeover, right?