Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Should I ice a sprained ankle?"
Am I supposed to ice it or soak it in hot water? Both?
A sprained ankle can be painful and frustrating. You should first make sure that your injury is just a sprain without any other significant injuries. Your primary care physician can help evaluate your ankle and determine if it is a simple sprained ankle or a more serious injury. A good way to remember the appropriate steps to treat a sprained ankle is the acronym RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation). Rest is important because without it you can cause more strain to the area, leading to more inflammation and possibly further injury. Ice helps relieve pain and decrease any inflammation in the area. To use ice appropriately, you should place it on your ankle for about 20 minutes and then let the area relax. You can wrap the ice in a paper towel or thin towel so that the it is not directly on the skin. However, you do not want to overuse ice because it can lead to decreased blood flow to the area. Compression with an ACE bandage can help decrease swelling from the inflammatory process of the sprain. Overuse of compression bandages and wrapping the area too tightly can decrease blood flow to the area and should be avoided. Elevation of the affected ankle will also help decrease the swelling. Oral pain medications such as Tylenol or Motrin can also be considered if you do not have any other medical issues. These interventions can help with your symptoms, but you should follow up with your primary care physician to ensure there are no other worrisome symptoms of your injury and to consider if a specialist consultation is needed.
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