Pleased to meet you … guess you’ve got a sprain.

If it helps, you’re probably not alone. About two million people in the U.S. sprain an ankle every year. And although exercising regularly is good for your health, it also puts you at higher risk for an ankle sprain. In fact, it’s one of the most common injuries among people who play sports, and the most common injury for college athletes.i

But you don’t need to be an athlete to get an ankle sprain—also called a rolled or twisted ankle. You can injure your ankle by doing something as simple as walking. In some cases, you may not need medical attention, but it’s a good idea to see a doctor, anyway. A bad sprain left untreated can make your ankle weaker and increase the risk of injuring it again. Let’s look at how to tell if you have a sprained ankle.

The Nature of the Pain

So how do you know you’ve sprained your ankle? Some common symptoms include:

  • Pain, both when you’re resting and when you’re moving or trying to put weight on the ankle
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Tenderness
  • Feeling like your ankle is unstable or will give out if you walk on itiii

A severe sprain—where the ligament in the ankle is torn badly or even detached from the bone (that’s bad because ligaments help hold your bones together)—can feel like a fracture (a broken bone). That’s another reason why it’s important to have a doctor look at your ankle.

With a severe sprain or a fracture, you might feel:

  • Severe pain right away when you hurt yourself
  • Swelling, bruising and tenderness
  • Not being able to put any weight on the foot
  • Numbness or a feeling of coldness in your footiii, 

Have some home remedies for sprained ankles…

So you’ve been cleared by the doc; no broken bones or busted ligaments. How can you ease the pain of that minor sprain? Here are five home remedies for sprained ankles you can try:

1. RICE to Meet You

The RICE method stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. It works best right after the injury to reduce pain and swelling and help you move the ankle a little better.

  • Rest: Keep weight off your leg and get plenty of sleep.
  • Ice: Apply cold several times a day.
  • Compression: Use bandages to compress—or gently squeeze—the injured area to reduce swelling.
  • Elevation: Prop your leg up above the level of your heart to reduce blood flow to the injury.
2. Twice as RICE

If you want to take RICE to the next level, your doctor or physical therapist may prescribe you a cold and compression unit for use in their office or at home. Cold and compression therapy is based on RICE but adds modern technology. With one of these devices, you don’t need to hold an ice pack on your injured ankle or strap it in place with bandages. Instead, the cold and compression therapy system uses a specially designed wrap that molds to your body. The wrap has chambers inside for cold water and pressurized air. Water is constantly circulating, so it stays cool as it works. The pressurized air creates a pumping effect that mimics your muscles’ natural “squeeze and release” motion to help reduce swelling.

The result is a longer-lasting, deeper-penetrating cold that might just make you a little more satisfied with your overall recovery process. 

3. Consider Medicating

Although your sprain may not be serious, it can still be painful. If you’re having discomfort even with ice or cold and compression therapy, over-the-counter pain medication could help. NSAIDs like aspirin or ibuprofen may reduce the pain and swelling.iii Check with your doctor if you’re on other medications, and always use over-the-counter medication according to the directions on the bottle.

4. Salt and (Don’t) Burn

Think cold first, but after a few days, you can soak your ankle in a warm bath with Epsom salt, which may help soothe sore muscles and ligaments. It might also help with joint stiffness. Try adding Epsom salts to a warm or somewhat hot bath 1-2 times a day. 

5. Keep It in Line

For the first day or so, consider using a bandage or a brace to keep your ankle steady if it hurts to move. Whether you’re recovering from a mild sprain or a tear, you’ll eventually want to start moving the ankle and strengthening the muscles around it. But bandages can keep the joint from moving too much right after the injury and may also help with compression.

What’s Puzzling You: Questions About Ankle Sprains

How long will it take to heal?

There’s no single answer to this question because every injury and every person is different. Generally, it depends on how bad the sprain is, how much rest you get, and how healthy you are in general. For a mild sprain, though, you can expect it to heal up in 1-3 weeks.

What helps it heal faster?

Short answer: Everything mentioned above can help. Make sure to get a lot of rest and drink enough water while your body is healing. 

If you’re not sure which of these sprained ankle remedies is right for you, ask your doctor. If you think cold and compression may help control pain and inflammation, ask them about prescribing Game Ready.



  1. Wolfe MW, Uhl TL, McCluskey LC. Management of ankle sprains. American Family Physician. 2001;63(1):93-105.
  2. Haddad SL. Sprained ankle. OrthoInfo. Published February 2016.
  3. Cunha JP. Broken ankle vs. sprain: symptoms and recovery time. eMedicineHealth.
  4. Why take an Epsom salt bath? WebMD.
  5. Krans B, Kinman T. Foods that reduce inflammation. Healthline. Published January 5, 2018.
  6. Miller J, Russell Z. Sprained ankle. Physioworks. Accessed March 28, 2019
  7. Ankle sprains? Published July 14, 2017.