How to Keep a Sprained Ankle From Becoming Chronically Unstable

It doesn’t take much to sprain your ankle. These painful injuries occur when the ligaments in your ankle stretch, tear, or rupture, which can lead to swelling, pain, bruising, and problems walking.

Unfortunately, many people skip getting medical attention because they don’t think ankle sprains as serious. But, without proper treatment, a sprained ankle can lose stability and its range of motion if the ligaments don’t heal correctly. If this happens, you may have a higher risk of reinjuring your ankle in the future.

If you have an ankle injury, our team at Rocky Mountain Foot and Ankle Center can help. We specialize in diagnosing and treating foot and ankle conditions at our practice in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. Taking these steps can reduce your chances of making your injury worse or reinjuring your ankle in the future.

1. Use the RICE method

When you have an ankle injury, it’s essential that you protect your ligaments from further damage and reduce swelling as quickly as possible. We recommend using the RICE method, which stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation.


Plan on resting your ankle for as much as possible during the first 24-48 hours following your injury, especially if you have severe pain and swelling.


Apply an ice pack to the injured area 3-5 times a day for 15-20 minutes each time.


To help decrease swelling, use elastic wrap, such as a bandage or ankle sleeve, to compress the area.


Elevate your ankle as high as possible to help lessen swelling and to allow fluid to drain from the area.

We also recommend taking nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, to help reduce pain and discomfort.

2. Seek medical attention

If you sprain your ankle, you should schedule a doctor’s appointment as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more your condition may deteriorate, especially if you have swelling, numbness, severe pain, or can’t bear any weight. 

During your appointment, we can evaluate your ankle and foot to determine the specific ligaments you injured and the severity of the damage. After reaching a diagnosis, we can develop a personalized treatment plan to restore your ankle’s normal range of motion and strengthen its supporting muscles and ligaments.

3. Rehabilitate your ankle

When you have a sprained ankle, our goal is to get you back on your feet as quickly as possible and help prevent future injuries. Our rehabilitation techniques often involve a combination of therapies, including physical therapy, bracing, and, sometimes, surgery.

Physical therapy

This approach involves ankle strengthening exercises designed to retrain your muscles, restore your range of motion, and improve your balance. We might also provide specialized training programs based on activities or sports you enjoy.


For some ankle injuries, we may recommend wearing a brace to provide additional support. Not only can these devices keep your ankle ligaments from moving while they heal, but they can also help you avoid more ankle sprains in the future.


If your ankle injury doesn’t respond to conservative treatments, we might recommend surgery to repair or reconstruct your connective tissue.

4. Be patient

It can take time to fully recover from an ankle sprain. For example, if you have a mild sprain, you may respond to treatment and rehabilitation in four weeks or less. If you have a more severe injury, however, it may take several months to restore your strength and range of motion. 

No matter how long your recovery takes, you should do your best to follow your rehabilitation plan, so you can recover as quickly as possible and reduce your chances of reinjuring your ankle.

To learn more about avoiding chronic ankle instability after suffering a sprain, book an appointment online or over the phone with Rocky Mountain Foot and Ankle Center today.

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