Ankle Injury Treatments


Ankle injuries are extremely common all over the world and happen anywhere, anytime. The severity differs vastly and as a result, ankle injury treatments are also numerous. Based on professional advice, treatment can be done at home (in the community), or in hospital.

In this article, we will deal with mild ankle injuries which can be managed at home. These injuries of the soft tissues around the ankle, are called sprains. And the treatment of ankle sprain to be discussed here has the acronym, “RICE Treatment”.

In the next paragraph, we shall give essential information on which ankles to treat at home. The following paragraphs will then tackle each arm of RICE (Rest Ice, Compression, Elevation).



It is important to be aware of patients / injured people who cannot be managed at home. These are the instances where there should be a high index of suspicion for a severe injury:

  • if the patient cannot walk or weight-bear on the affected limb. This is highly suspicious of a fracture. X-ray examination is necessary. Treatment can only be undertaken in hospital or other suitable health facility.
A patient with a possible fracture must always be treated in hospital. The injury may be severe enough to require an operation.


  • children under the age of 18. In this situation, even if the injury does not appear to be severe, the suspicion should be a fracture. Children do not sprain ligaments. Rather, the delicate part of their bones called the GROWTH PLATE is what gives in. X-ray examination is necessary, including comparison with the other limb.

    Children do not sprain ligaments. They fracture at the growth plate!


  • if the limb is too lax and  / or painless after the sprain. This suggests a complete ligament tear. Though this is a soft tissue injury, its severity warrants surgical treatment (repair) in hospital.
A very lax injured ligament or tendon could signal complete rupture.



When treating ankle sprains, it is essential to rest the limb for 4 -5 days. Ideally dear Reader, this must be COMPLETE rest. A Sick Leave should be sought from the work or study place.

Rest enables and accelerates healing. It prevents repeat injury, or extension of existing damage. Rest also makes pain management easier.


This is one arm of treatment that should be instituted immediately after injury occurs, for best results. Ice blocks, wrapped in cloth or bandage, should be applied to the injured part.

If ice is not available, the coldest water available should be used.

This cold treatment helps to combat inflammation. It reduces swelling of the injured soft tissues, and collection of inflammatory fluid (effusion). This greatly reduces pain and discomfort (and helps healing).

The cold packs should be continued twice daily. This should be done for as long as necessary, but certainly at least for the duration of the above rest. (The ice or water should be applied before the below dressing under C.)

First aid and continuing treatment of injuries requires the use of ice or cold (not hot) water


A common mistake all over the world, is to use warm or hot water! While this may feel soothing at times, it attracts blood flow and inflammatory processes. This causes or worsens swelling and ultimately, pain too!

(I personally advise clients to use “I” to remind them of Inflammation reducing medications, or anti-Inflammatories. These can be used as an adjunct, for pain and inflammation that do not settle with the Ice packs. But preferably, start with simple, safe paracetamol.

If paracetamol doesn’t do the trick, you can then escalate to the Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs, NSAIDs. These usually overcome swelling and pain more effectively.)


The C can also be used to remember Crepe bandage.

A dressing, usually in the form of a bandage, should be applied around the ankle joint. This should be done by a skilled person, who:

  • knows how to apply the dressing under sufficient pressure
  • will be able to apply the dressing in a manner that brings the damaged soft tissues together. This is important for the optimal healing of the soft tissues

Compression also squeezes out fluid / effusions, and prevents reaccumulation.

Another function of a compressive dressing, is to inhibit the proliferation of (pus-forming or bacterial) infections. This function is summed up in a Spanish saying. The saying translates to “infection is destroyed in the fire of compression”.


This last but not least arm of ICE treatment, is probably the least adhered to. Perhaps people find it demanding to practice diligently. But it really is important and arrangements should be made to enable it.

Elevation involves the requirement that the injured part of the limb (ankle in this case) should be elevated at all material times. This elevation should be practiced day and night (the foot or lower leg can be placed on a pillow or two at night). Elevation should only be broken briefly e.g. when going to the toilet.

The ankle should be placed at a level that is higher than the thigh or waist. This facilitates fluid to gravitate towards the thigh, all the way back to the heart. Thus, elevation prevents swelling (and pain).

Every effort should be made to elevate an injured ankle or foot to above thigh level. This does wonders!


Sprained ankle treatment can be done effectively and safely in the community. But it is essential to be sure that the ankle injury sustained, is indeed a sprain. Any suggestion of a more severe occurrence such as a bone crack or joint dislocation, should lead to immediate consultation of a health professional.

Prompt institution of the RICE sprained ankle injury treatment yields much more success. And the four arms of the treatment have to be adhered to strictly. Unfortunately such adherence is often wanting, which leads to slow and / or incomplete recovery. Subsequently, unfair doubt may be cast on this very effective and validated treatment approach.

RICE treatment of ankle sprains is reliable, easy to follow and easy to memorise.


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10 Replies to “Ankle Injury Treatments”

  1. The second part of this article is about the “Ice” or “Cold Water”. This method has been used by many people throughout history, but it was not until the 20th century that it became popular. It is now widely accepted as one of the most effective treatments for various types of fractures, sprains and strains.
    In fact, if properly applied, it can even help heal some minor wounds such as cuts and scrapes.

    1. Hi,

      Thanks very much for your contribution.

      Speedy and proper application of the treatment is paramount.


  2. Very nice to learn how to deal with ankle injuries here and it seems you really know a lot about how it can be so painful. I have had ankle injury on my right leg up to five times and they were so bad. Sometimes it would swell so bad but now I’m happy I would be able to help the situation. Thank you!

    1. Hi Jackie,

      Thanks for your input. I am glad that the article has equipped you, going forward.


  3. Hello  Dr Teboho Lekhanya, 

    There is so much pain that comes with an ankle injury and as an athlete I have suffered a lot from almost every kind of ankle injury I know of. Most time they either want to run a surgery if I need to be fit soon, and if not, it’s always a Crepe bandage. These are some really nice means to treat ankle injuries and the ice treatment is one very common one 

    1. Hi,

      Thanks for your input especially your story. I am glad you did overcome every injury you experienced.


  4. Thank you so much for presenting a great article on Ankle Injury Treatment. This injury can have a variety of treatment approaches but is usually bandaged with ice to treat it. But I also agree with you that RICE treatment is the most reliable which can be followed to get rid of it. Finally, I have read and enjoyed your article so I want to share the subject of the article in my social media group so that everyone can know about its treatment.

    1. Hi,

      Thanks for reading through the article and providing valuable feedback.

  5. Hello. I agree with everything you say. I am a doctor myself, so I know that an ankle injury is very common. People cannot rely on their feet for the next few days. Thank you for writing nicely about the possibilities of therapy. Everything is as you said. I think it is very important that people who have a history of ankle sprains to do a bandage when working out to prevent recurrence. Personally, I always recommend ice, something that everyone has, a bandage and elevation of limb and I think it gives a good effect.

    1. Hi Jelena, 😊

      Thanks so very much colleague for reading through the article and providing valuable input!

      Warmest regards.

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