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An ankle sprain is a type of musculoskeletal injury that occurs when the ankle is twisted or turned in an abnormal manner, causing the ligaments that support the ankle bones to stretch or tear.
Ligaments are responsible for joint stabilization. So when ligaments are pushed beyond their typical range of motion, sprained ankle occurs.
Treatment for a sprained ankle relies on the severity of the injury. In most cases, self-care and traditional remedies may be helpful in managing the condition.
Home Remedies for Ankle Sprains
Here are some home remedies for ankle sprains.
1. Implement RICE therapy for initial management
Not-so-severe injuries such as sprains and strains can generally be managed at home using RICE therapy during the initial days following the injury. The preliminary goal of the remedy is to reduce pain and swelling.
The RICE strategy has been generally employed in the initial 2–3 days after the injury. (1)(2)
RICE stands for:
In the initial weeks after an ankle injury, it is generally recommended to relax the foot. Resting your foot for some time can help lessen swelling and pain.
But if the ankle sprain isn’t very serious, there are adequate explanations to already begin appropriate exercises early on. (3)
There is little evidence to demonstrate the efficacy of cryotherapy for lessening the signs of an ankle sprain. But cryotherapy for 3–7 days after an injury is usually used to lessen pain and decrease swelling and bleeding due to vasoconstriction (constriction of blood vessels).
Most arguments have advised a practice of applying a cold pack for 20 minutes every 2 hours. Occasional immersion cold therapy in the initial week following an injury may also be beneficial for easy pain management. (1)(4)
Conventionally, compression is deemed a useful means to decrease swelling and enhance the quality of life, but the existing evidence about the usefulness of compression after an acute sprain is arguable.
Nevertheless, more than 75% of hospitals continue to use compression bandaging to aid in recovery.
The use of an elastic bandage in acute ankle sprain has been found to be more useful than a splint in decreasing swelling. So, you can try the same. (1)(5)
The affected leg with an acute sprain may be raised to 15–25 cm from the heart to improve venous and lymphatic drainage for decreased swelling. (6)
2. Drink ginger tea two times a day
A study conducted on football players with ankle sprain found that ginger extract, when combined with therapeutic exercises, resulted in significant improvements in pain, healing time, and other parameters.
Patients who received ginger extract and therapeutic exercises showed better results compared to those who only received therapeutic exercises. (7)
Therefore, it is recommended to use ginger for a better response and faster healing of the ankle sprain.
Here are the steps to drink ginger tea if you have a sprained ankle:
- Boil water in a kettle or pot.
- Place ginger slices into a mug and add the boiling water.
- Let the ginger steep in the boiling water for 5–10 minutes.
- Remove the ginger slices with a spoon or strainer.
- Once the tea is at a suitable temperature, sip it slowly and enjoy it twice every day.
3. Apply turmeric paste every day to the affected area
Research suggests that curcumin, found in turmeric, may improve recovery times and reduce muscle soreness and inflammation following exercise-induced muscle fiber damage.
This suggests that turmeric may be a potential home remedy for ankle sprains, especially for athletes and military personnel who are at higher risk of this type of injury.
Additionally, curcumin may be a safer and more effective long-term solution for pain and inflammation reduction compared to NSAIDs. (8)
How to use turmeric for ankle sprains:
- Mix 1–2 teaspoons of turmeric powder with enough water to make a paste.
- Apply the paste to the area, covering it with a clean cloth or bandage.
- Leave it on for several hours or overnight, and then rinse it off with warm water.
- Repeat this process daily until the pain and inflammation subside.
4. Try to move your ankle as early as possible with supporting devices instead of keeping it still
It is better to keep moving and use ankle supports rather than keeping the ankle completely still after a sprain. This is particularly valid for mild to moderate sprains.
Studies have shown that using functional supports can help people recover faster and have fewer symptoms in the long run compared to those who used a cast.
For more severe sprains, a short period of immobilization (less than 10 days) with a cast or brace may be helpful to reduce the pain and swelling. (9)(1)(10)
5. Use weight-bearing and walking aids
When you use a walking aid such as crutches, it’s possible to start walking and putting some weight on the affected ankle early in the recovery process. This may alleviate the swelling and accelerate the healing.
According to research, early weight bearing with support can help alleviate the signs and symptoms of an acute ankle sprain. (11)(1)
6. Invest in foot orthoses
You can try using foot orthoses (shoe inserts designed to correct foot and ankle problems and provide support during activities) as a home remedy for acute ankle sprain. Studies have shown that they can reduce pain and improve balance, possibly by helping your muscles work better.
Both customized and off-the-shelf orthoses can be effective. Experts now recommend using foot orthoses as an important part of the ankle sprain recovery process. (12)(1)
7. Implement exercise therapy
Expanding evidence advocates the benefit of exercise therapy as the major element of ankle sprain treatment. The usefulness of exercise therapy has been verified, particularly when prompted during the early stages of an acute ankle sprain.
Exercise therapy should be extensive and include stretching and strengthening exercises.
Experts from Harvard Medical School share the following exercises for the first 2 weeks following an ankle sprain.
- Put the heel of the injured foot on the ground.
- Pull your toes toward your body as much as possible.
- Take some rest and then point them away from the body.
- Perform this exercise quite often in the first week.
- Keep the heel on the ground.
- Attempt to make all the capital letters of the English alphabet using your big toe.
- Sit on the floor with an elastic band tied around the affected foot and docked around your healthy foot.
- Slowly veer around the affected foot outward.
- Do it 30 times.
- Sit on the ground.
- Cross your legs with your affected foot placed under the healthy foot.
- Tie an elastic around the affected foot and docked around your undamaged foot
- Slowly turn the affected foot inward.
- Do it 30 times.
Experts from Harvard Medical School share the following exercises for the 3rd and 4th weeks following an ankle sprain.
- Stand at one arm’s distance from the wall.
- Place the affected foot behind the healthy foot with your toes fronting forward.
- Keep the heels down and your knees straight.
- Slowly bend your knee until you sense a stretch in the calf.
- Stay for around 20 seconds.
- Repeat thrice.
- Stand with your hands on the wall.
- Rise as you stand on your toes.
- Stay for a second, and then lower your body slowly to the resting position.
- Repeat 20–30 times.
How to Prevent Ankle Sprains?
To prevent ankle strains, some people wear bandages or ankle braces before they play sports to make an effort to stabilize their ankles and discourage further injuries.
Strengthening exercises are especially relevant for preventing chronic ankle instability because they nicely stabilize your joint, but these exercises generally need to be performed for long durations such as weeks or months. (13)
Most-Asked Questions About Ankle Sprain
How long will it take for a sprained ankle to heal?
Physicians say that the length of healing time depends on the seriousness of the injury, although the majority of sprains need 2–6 weeks to recover.
Do sprained ankles need surgery?
Most people with sprained ankles are able to recover without surgery.
Nevertheless, if your sprain is not able to heal on its own with traditional remedies or if you acquire chronic ankle sprains, surgery may be a good and practical option to get rid of the pain.
Although infrequent, a few patients find it useful to get ankle reconstruction to rebuild the destroyed ligaments around the ankle.
How do ankle sprain manifest and how are they different from broken ankles?
Ankle sprains are characterized by pain, swelling, and bruising that typically develop after intense or repetitive exercise, while broken ankles are indicated by sharp pain, swelling, a popping sound during the injury, and severe difficulty in walking.
While uncomfortable, sprained ankles are generally manageable. For minor sprains, home remedies will help in alleviating the pain and swelling in a few days. However, if your pain is insufferable, pursue medical assistance.Continue ReadingSprained Ankle: Symptoms, Risk Factors, Severity, and More
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