Rest – Limit walking in the early stages but early movement is helpful

Ice – Ice pack on swelling

Compression – Elastic support bandage or crepe bandage to help control any swelling (not always advised)

Elevation – To help reduce the swelling


  • Make an ‘ice pack’ using frozen peas wrapped in a wet tea towel or crushed ice cubes in a wet tea towel, and place it directly on the skin over the affected area, either for 10 minutes if it is within 3 days of injury, twice daily; or for 20 minutes if it is after 3 days of injury, twice daily
  • If supplied, wear the support /crepe bandage in the day only (this must be washed to regain elasticity). Some evidence suggests this may not always help recovery.
    Sometimes, support strapping with sticky tape may be applied instead. This taping helps to take the stress off the injured (sprained) ligament
  • When not walking sit or lie with the foot up, resting higher than the hip

Pain relief

Take paracetamol regularly and add ibuprofen if needed and not contraindicated for you (check with your pharmacist or doctor if in doubt). Both painkillers are available over the counter. A doctor may prescribe something stronger.


  • Start movements of the foot and ankle from the first day of injury (unless specifically instructed not to by a doctor or physiotherapist). Do each movement 5 times every hour
  • Pull foot up and then point toe down fully
  • Turn foot in then out fully (keeping the knee still)
  • Standing by a window sill or worktop for assistance/balance, stand with both feet on the ground, slowly transfer your weight from the good leg to the bad leg and then back again
  • The physiotherapist or nurse will issue you with a stick or crutches if your pain causes severe limping. Walking should be for short periods, frequently throughout the day, putting as much pressure as is comfortable throughout the sole of the foot. Use a normal ‘heel-toe‘ pattern as shown in the diagram
  • Do not stand for long periods, or sit with affected leg hanging down

If movement, swelling or walking are not improving within 3–4 days, please return for a review or ring the Emergency Department for advice

Later exercises: to strengthen the ankle.
These can be started as soon as you can stand comfortably (or when advised by a physiotherapist).
Stand beside a worktop, etc, to steady yourself with your hands. With bare feet slightly apart: Push up on tiptoes then lower heels to the ground. Both feet to start with, then injured side alone. Repeat 5 times or until calf muscle feels tired. Do 2–3 times a day. Practise standing on injured side and keeping your balance. When this becomes easy, try with eyes closed. Compare your balance with other leg.

If returning to sport, your ankle/foot should be pain free, fully mobile and strong. If in doubt, ask advice.

This leaflet gives general guidance only. Depending on your injury, it may take about  4–6 weeks to get back to normal, or sometimes longer. Ask your physiotherapist if in doubt.

Emergency Department: 01935 384 355

If you need this information in another format, please telephone: 01935 384 256

Ref: 07-17-118
Review: 03/19