About 25,000 Americans sprain their ankles every day, making it one of the most common musculoskeletal injuries in the country. Sprains account for nearly 45% of all sports injuries, but they’re a risk for athletes and nonathletes alike.

Tough bands of tissue called ligaments stabilize your ankle joint. If you slip, fall, or misstep, the ligaments can stretch too far and result in a sprained ankle. Symptoms often include pain, swelling, and restricted range of motion. Unfortunately, many people brush off sprains as minor injuries.

David B. Glover, DPM, FACFAS, and the podiatry team at Mountain View Foot & Ankle Institute are trained in diagnosing sprained ankles. We’re here to help patients of all ages get back to their favorite activities as quickly as possible after suffering ankle injuries.

Like most injuries, sprained ankles can range in severity. An irritated or overstretched ligament constitutes a minor sprain, while severe sprains may involve a complete tear. The time it takes your ankle to heal will vary, but rest is a must for all sprained ankles.

Rest to speed healing

If you twist or roll your ankle, you need to take appropriate action to help limit your injury and keep it from getting worse. This is especially true if it’s painful or if you heard a popping sound when your injury occurred. Even if you can bear weight on your foot, you shouldn’t ignore the pain. You should get off your foot as quickly as possible and follow the RICE protocol, which stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation.

Resting your ankle as much as possible in the first 48 hours following a sprain will lessen your chances of making the injury worse by reducing stress on the inflamed ligaments. Mild sprains may require a few days of rest, while severe sprains may require several months of rest.

Rest to reduce risk of future injury

By resting your sprained ankle, you’ll keep it from getting worse and allow it to heal more quickly. If you don’t give your ankle enough time to heal, you could put yourself at risk for future sprains, arthritis, and even chronic ankle instability.

Spraining your ankle once may make it more likely that you’ll suffer more sprains in the future, particularly if you play sports. So you should rest your ankle until the swelling and pain are gone. Reintroducing sports or other activities too soon could lead to reinjury and prolong the time it takes for your ankle to heal.

Chronic ankle instability is a condition that occurs when your ankle ligaments are permanently weakened. You might feel like your ankle could give way at any time. It can turn outward when walking or standing, increasing your risk of injury and ankle pain.

When to visit the doctor for a sprained ankle

Ankle injuries should never be ignored, but mild sprains may heal with simple at-home care and plenty of rest. More severe sprains can benefit from professional care, and torn ligaments may require surgery.

Many people think that a sprained ankle isn’t a cause for much concern, but if the pain is intense and it lasts for more than a few days, you should visit Dr. Glover. Dr. Glover can recommend compression wrapping strategies to minimize swelling, and he may prescribe medication to help manage your pain and inflammation.

As your ankle heals, Dr. Glover may recommend physical therapy to help your ankle regain strength and mobility. Physical therapy will also help reduce the chances that your ankle suffers chronic ankle instability or is reinjured in the future.

To get top-quality ankle care, book an appointment online or over the phone with Mountain View Foot & Ankle Institute today.