Ankle Sprains – Non-surgical and Basic RICE Treatments
RICE Treatment for Ankle Sprains
For milder sprains, the simple home treatment follows the RICE protocol:
RICE: Rest Ice Compression Elevate
- Rest the ankle by not walking on it.
- Ice should be applied as soon as possible to keep the swelling down. Use it for 20 to 30 minutes, three or four times daily. Do not apply ice directly to the skin.
- Compression dressings or bandages will support the injured ankle.
- Elevate the ankle above the level of your heart as often as possible during the first few days.
Medication: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen can help control pain and swelling.
Some sprains will require treatment in addition to the RICE protocol and medications.
- Crutches: In most cases, swelling and pain will last from 2 to 3 days. Walking may be difficult during this time and it may be helpful to use crutches.
- Immobilisation: During the early phase of healing, it is important to support the ankle and protect it from sudden movements. For more severe sprains, a removable plastic device such as a boot or a brace can provide support.The doctor may encourage you to put some weight on your ankle while it is protected. This can help with healing
- Physiotherapy: Rehabilitation exercises are used to prevent stiffness, increase ankle strength, and prevent chronic ankle problems.
- Early motion. To prevent stiffness, physiotherapists will recommend exercises that involve range-of-motion or controlled movements of your ankle without weight or resistance.
- Strengthening exercises. Once you can bear weight without increased pain or swelling, exercises to strengthen the muscles and tendons in the front and back of your leg and foot will be the next step. Water exercises may be used if land-based strengthening exercises, such as toe-raising, are too painful. Exercises with resistance are added as tolerated.
- Proprioception (balance) training. Poor balance often leads to repeat sprains and ankle instability. A good example of a balance exercise is standing on the affected foot with the opposite foot raised and eyes closed. Balance boards are often used in this stage of rehabilitation.
- Endurance and agility exercises. Once you are pain-free, other exercises may be added, such as agility drills. Running in progressively smaller figures-of-8 is excellent for agility and calf and ankle strength. The goal is to increase strength and range of motion as balance improves over time.