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Sprained ankle advice

What is a sprained ankle?  

A sprained ankle is a partial tear of the ligaments in the ankle joint. It will be painful but this should slowly improve. You should be able to walk (although it will still be painful), but it may take 3 to 4 weeks to get back to normal and even longer before you can get back to full sporting activity.

What should I do now?

The first 3 days

In the first 3 days after the injury the pain and inflammation can be improved by the following measures:

  • Apply a bag of ice or frozen peas wrapped in a towel for 10 minutes, 3 to 4 times a day.
  • Take regular pain medication, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen to control pain level as required.
  • Mobilise – commence gentle movement as soon as possible. Try to use the affected limb as normal. Try to avoid jumping as this can cause further problems. Rest at regular intervals for recovery.
  • Elevation – raising the ankle above the level of your hips (you can use a pillow to keep it up) will help to reduce the swelling.

After 3 to 4 days

Continue to apply ice once a day for 15 minutes until the swelling has gone completely or is very minimal.

After 1 week

After 1 week when the pain has improved the following exercises should be done 3 to 4 times a day to improve flexibility and strength of the joint.

  • Stand and balance on the affected foot (hold on to a table if necessary).
  • Raise yourself up and down on the toes, first on both feet and then on alternate feet.
  • Stretch the calf muscles. Keep the back knee (the affected leg) straight and the heel flat on the floor. Hold each stretch for 15 seconds. Do not bounce.

How long will it take to get better?

Most children should be bearing weight on their in 3 to 5 days.

There should be a steady improvement in pain and mobility comparing it with a few days before.

If instead, the pain or swelling or redness is getting worse then you may need to seek health advice again or be seen by a doctor.

How long before you can get back to sport?

A good way of mobilising is to say that when you can walk comfortably on the ankle you can start
running and when you can run comfortably you can go back to sport.

When you first running or playing sport again, the ankle may swell a little.

What should I do if I am still having trouble?

If after 5 to 7 days you are not able to walk reasonably well then return to the Emergency Department or visit your GP.

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Please note this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s. The details in this resource may not necessarily reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If you have specific questions about how this resource relates to your child, please ask your doctor.

Resource number: ED12

Resource Type: Article

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