How to Cure a Swollen Ankle

Three Parts:Promoting a Fast RecoveryUsing Medicine to Reduce SwellingReducing Activities That May Increase Swelling

A swollen ankle is a common result of ankle injuries, which can be painful and inconvenient if you have a physical job. It is important to get checked out by your doctor as soon as possible if you get injured. Your doctor can evaluate your injury and recommend the best course of treatment for your situation. However, there are some common treatments that doctors recommend for people who have sustained ankle injuries. Learn about how to use these practices to help cure your swollen ankle.

Part 1
Promoting a Fast Recovery

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    Schedule an appointment with your doctor or visit an emergency room. If you have been injured and you are in pain, seek medical treatment right away. Visit an emergency room if you think you need immediate treatment or if you cannot get in to see your regular doctor. When your doctor examines you, she will ask you questions and check for certain signs to determine the degree and type of injury that you have. Be honest about your pain and other symptoms to help your doctor diagnose and treat your injury. The grades of common, low ankle injury include:
    • Grade I is a partial tear of the ligament with no functional loss or impairment. The person can still walk and bear weight on the affected side. You may have some mild pain and mild bruising.[1]
    • Grade II is an incomplete tear of the ligament or ligaments with moderate functional impairment, meaning it is difficult to bear weight on the affected foot and you may need crutches. You will have some moderate pain, bruising, and swelling. Your doctor may also notice some limitations in your range of motion.[2]
    • Grade III is a complete tear and loss of the structural integrity of the ligaments. The patient will be unable to bear any weight or walk unassisted. You will have severe bruising and severe swelling.[3]
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    Be aware of high ankle sprains. Common ankle sprains involve the ATFL ligament, which stabilizes the ankle and is commonly injured by "rolling" the ankle.[4] These injuries are "low ankle" sprains, but you may also experience a "high ankle" sprain, especially if you are an athlete. This affects a different ligament, the syndesmosis, which is located above the ankle joint. You will experience less bruising and swelling with this kind of injury, but likely more pain and a longer recover time.[5]
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    Follow your doctor’s instructions. After you have had your swollen ankle evaluated, you will need to stick to your doctor’s treatment plan to cure your ankle. Your doctor will most likely recommend a period of resting, icing, compressing, and elevating your ankle. Call your doctor if your symptoms worsen or if they do not improve over time.
    • Ask about physical therapy if you have a severe injury. Physical therapy may help to speed up your healing time and exercise reduces the chances that you will sprain your ankle again.[6]
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    Rest your ankle for two or three days after the injury happens. Making sure your ankle gets plenty of rest for two or three days will help to speed up your recovery time. This means avoiding sports or other physical activities that involve putting pressure on your ankle. You may need to take some time off from work if you have a job where you need to stay on your feet for most of the day.[7][8]
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    Ice your ankle. Apply ice to your ankle for 15–20 minutes at a time to help reduce swelling and decrease pain. When you put ice on your ankle, it reduces the blood flow to the area so the swelling will go down faster. Icing your ankle can also help you to cope with the pain. Wrap the ice pack with a towel before pressing it against your skin.[9]
    • After icing your ankle, wait about an hour before icing your ankle again. Too much exposure to the ice could cause skin damage.
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    Compress your ankle. By compressing your ankle, you will restrict the movement of your ankle. Compression decreases swelling and speeds healing time as well. Wrap an ace bandage or compression device around the injured area.[10][11]
    • Take the compression off at night. Overnight compression may cause total restriction of blood flow in the foot and cause tissue death.
    • Kinesio taping is another form of compression that has been shown to clinically reduce swelling. Ask your doctor or a physical therapist if he is trained in this technique.
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    Elevate your ankle. Elevation limits the flow of blood to the affected area, which may help to reduce the swelling. You can elevate your ankle when you are sitting or when you are lying down. Use a couple of pillows or blankets to prop up your ankle so you’re your ankle is raised above the level of your heart.[12]
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    Support your ankle while it recovers. Keeping pressure off your ankle by avoiding standing on it will help you to recover faster. You can use crutches or a cane to support yourself when you need to walk. Keep in mind that you need to support your ankle when going up and down stairs[13].
    • When going up steps, take the first step with your uninjured foot. The healthy leg shoulders all the load of the body while battling against gravity in this way.
    • When going down steps, take the first step with your injured foot. This allows gravity to assist the injured leg while stepping down.
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    Prepare for a recovery period of about 10 days. Following your doctor’s instructions and staying off of your injured ankle will help you to recover, but it often takes about 10 days for people to recover from ankle injuries.[14] Do not try to rush your recovery or you may make your injury worse. Take time off from work if necessary and ask for help from friends and family while you recover.

Part 2
Using Medicine to Reduce Swelling

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    Take NSAIDs with your doctor’s approval. Talk to your doctor about taking NSAIDs to help you deal with pain as you recover. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) work to reduce swelling and relieve the pain caused by your ankle injury. Common over-the-counter NSAIDs include ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) or naproxen (Naprosyn).[15]
    • Talk to your doctor before using NSAIDs if you have heart problems, a history of stomach ulcers, high blood pressure, kidney damage, or diabetes.
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    Ask your doctor about celecoxib. Celecoxib (Celebrex®) works well to reduce inflammation caused by an ankle injury. This is because it controls the production of prostaglandins, which cause inflammation. You will need a prescription from your doctor for this medication. You should take celecoxib after a meal, because taking it on an empty stomach could lead to a stomachache.[16]
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    Discuss piroxicam with your doctor. Piroxicam works by stopping prostaglandin formation. It has a sublingual form that melts under the tongue and goes directly to the blood so that it reduces swelling quickly.[17]
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    Talk to your doctor about surgery as a last resort. Surgical therapy is rarely done for ankle sprains. It is only done in severe ankle sprains that do not respond to months of rehabilitation and medical therapy. If your ankle sprain is severe and has not improved after a long period of rehabilitation, ask your doctor if this may be a good option for you.

Part 3
Reducing Activities That May Increase Swelling

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    Stick to cold compresses. Avoid heat while your ankle recovers. Heat increases blood flow to the injured area and aggravates inflammation. Warm compresses, saunas, and steam showers may do more harm than good in the first three days after your injury occurs. Stay away from heat during this time and stick to cold compresses to help relieve pain and swelling.[18]
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    Abstain from alcohol. Do not drink any alcohol while you are recovering. Alcoholic drinks open up the blood vessels in the body. When your blood vessels open up, the swelling in your ankle can become much worse. Alcohol will also delay the healing process, so it is a good idea to avoid it while you recover.
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    Keep your movement low impact. Stay away from running and other physical activities to make sure that your ankle heals. Running and other high impact physical activities will only make things worse. Rest for at least one week before resuming exercise.
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    Wait to massage your ankle. Do not massage your ankle for at least a week. While massaging the pain away in your ankle might sound like a good idea, giving your ankle a massage will just add external pressure to your injury. This external pressure will actually make the swelling worse.
    • You can start to gently massage your ankle one week after you have allowed your ankle to rest and recover.


  • If you think your ankle may be broken, or if you have suffered a severe sprain, go to the hospital right away.

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