Medical Therapies for Foot & Ankle Sprains

If you have a mild foot or ankle sprain that does not cause significant pain, your NYU Langone doctor may recommend therapies that reduce swelling and allow the injury to heal. During this time, you may be advised to modify your activities to avoid added stress on the injured area.

Over time, mild sprains may heal on their own. Severe sprains, however, sometimes require surgery.

NYU Langone doctors can advise you on how best to go about your daily activities as you heal, without making the injury worse.

Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation

After a foot or ankle sprain, doctors typically recommend a combination of rest, ice, compression, and elevation, which is called the RICE regimen. Your doctor determines how long this treatment lasts, depending on the severity of the injury.

Resting the affected ligaments gives the area time to heal. Your doctor may provide a cane or crutches for about a week to help you keep weight off the foot.

Your doctor may also recommend applying ice to your foot or ankle to reduce swelling. This therapy is typically done 3 times a day for 15 minutes at a time and may be repeated for 7 to 10 days.

For 2 to 4 days after an injury, your doctor may recommend elevating the foot and ankle 3 times a day for 15 minutes at a time. This therapy may also help reduce swelling.

After the swelling subsides, a brace or walking boot may be recommended. A brace fits over the injured area to immobilize it, allowing it to heal. A boot is custom fit for the foot or ankle and shifts weight away from the injury during healing.

These types of therapies typically last for several weeks. Your doctor determines when your injury has healed based on relief of your symptoms.

Until the inflammation fully subsides, doctors recommend avoiding the activity that caused the injury, as well as other activities that put stress on the foot or ankle. Returning to walking or sports too soon may delay healing, and greatly increases the risk of another injury.

Depending on the severity of the injury, your doctor may recommend physical therapy. This can stretch and strengthen muscles, improve balance and range of motion, and help prevent reinjuring the foot or ankle.

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