A sprain is the short way of saying that you have torn or overstretched a muscle. It occurs when a joint gets twisted, injuring the ligaments that connect the bones in the joint.
Ankle sprains can be caused by running or walking on uneven ground, wearing high-heel shoes, lifting heavy weights and as a result of accidents. Symptoms may include pain, swelling, bruising and restricted range of motion.
A sprain can range from mild to severe. While severe sprains will need medical care, you can treat a mild ankle sprain easily at home with some simple home remedies.
Here are the top 10 home remedies for a sprained ankle.
Applying ice to a sprained ankle can greatly help reduce swelling, inflammation and pain. Ice keeps the ligaments from becoming inflamed and stop any bleeding from a torn ligament. Ice should be applied over the affected area for the first 48 to 72 hours after the injury.
- Wrap about a cup of ice cubes in a towel. Apply the compress to the injured area for 15 to 20 minutes. Repeat the process every two to three hours.
- If ice is not readily available, you can use a frozen package of vegetables.
Note: Never put ice directly against the skin as it may cause damage to the skin.
To help stop swelling, compress or bandage the sprained ankle soon after the injury. Compression helps control pain as well as prevents further injury. To apply compression, you can use elastic, tape, bandages or special boots.
- Buy a crepe or elastic bandage from a pharmacy.
- Wrap the bandage from your toes to your mid-calf, using even pressure. Do not wrap it too tightly, as it can restrict blood flow.
- Keep the bandage on during the day until the swelling reduces.
- Remove the bandage before you go to sleep.
Note: Remove the bandage immediately if the affected area turns blue or begins to feel numb.
This common spice is an excellent pain reliever due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Also being anti-spasmodic, turmeric relaxes the muscles, tissues and joints and helps reduce swelling and pain.
- Mix two tablespoons of turmeric powder, one tablespoon of lime juice and a little bit of warm water to make a thick paste. Apply the paste to the sprained ankle and then wrap it with a bandage. Leave it on for 10 hours. Repeat again every 10 hours and continue this treatment for a week.
- For quick pain relief, mix equal amounts of turmeric powder and limestone powder and add water to make a thick paste. Heat the paste and apply it to the affected area before going to bed. Wrap it with a bandage. Leave it on overnight. In the morning, remove the bandage. Do this for two or three days.
- In case of immense pain, add one teaspoon of turmeric powder to a glass of warm milk. Drink this twice daily for a week.
Garlic can also be used to quickly relieve various symptoms of a sprain. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, garlic can help reduce pain as well as inflammation. Also, its healing properties and its ability to increase the body’s strength and energy will speed up the healing process.
- Mix one tablespoon of garlic juice and two tablespoons of warm coconut oil. Gently rub this solution on the affected area. Leave it on for half an hour and then wash the area with lukewarm water. Use this simple remedy three or four times a day for several days until your ankle heals completely.
- Alternatively, mix one teaspoon garlic oil and one teaspoon of almond oil. Massage the affected area with the mixture two or three times a day. Repeat daily until you recover fully. This remedy can also be used for treating arthritis and rheumatism.
5. Epsom Salt
Epsom salt is a popular home remedy for treating sprains. The crystals of magnesium sulfate are highly effective for soothing sore muscles and calming nearby nerves. Epsom salt can be purchased at most drugstores or discount stores.
- Pour one cup of Epsom salt into warm bath water. Stir it with your hand to help the salt dissolve in the water.
- Soak the sprained ankle in this water for at least 30 minutes.
- Do this twice daily for three to four days.
Arnica is widely used for healing and strengthening muscles and joints. It is an excellent anti-inflammatory agent that helps reduce pain, swelling and inflammation. As an added benefit, arnica increases circulation and helps prevent bruising in the injured area.
- Apply arnica essential oil in diluted form over the affected area and gently massage it. Wrap a bandage over the area and leave it on for at least five hours. Remove the bandage and repeat the process again after a few hours. Do this for a few days until your ankle is completely healed.
- Apply arnica balm or ointment as cream or a compress two or three times a day.
Note: Some people are sensitive to arnica, so try a patch test before using it on the affected area. Also, do not apply arnica if the skin has open cuts.
7. Castor Oil
Castor oil is a traditional remedy for alleviating the pain and inflammation of sprains. Castor oil is a triglyceride and mainly consists of ricinoleic acid, which has anti-inflammatory properties.
- Fold a cotton cloth several times to make a pad. Dip the pad in a container of castor oil.
- Place the pad on the affected area and secure it with several layers of plastic wrap.
- Place a hot water bottle over the castor oil pack for half an hour.
- Keep the sprained ankle in an elevated position for a few minutes.
- Remove the pack and then massage the remaining oil into the skin.
- Repeat this treatment two or three times daily for two days.
Due to their anti-inflammatory properties, onions are often used to treat sprained ankles, jammed fingers, arthritis and rheumatism. Onions can help reduce pain, swelling and inflammation.
- Chop one large onion into small pieces. Put the pieces in a muslin cloth and tie it with a rubber band. Place the muslin cloth on the sprained area for at least two hours. If needed, secure the cloth with tape. Repeat as needed to reduce symptoms.
- Alternatively, chill an onion in the refrigerator for two hours. Cut the onion into small pieces and then mix them with a good amount of salt. Apply the mixture to the swollen ankle and wrap it with an elastic bandage. Replace the compress with a new one every seven to eight hours. Do this for one to two days depending upon your recovery rate.
Cabbage’s anti-inflammatory effects make it a good topical remedy for treating simple sprains. Cabbage compresses are often used to reduce the swelling in sprains and broken bones. It is also high in vitamins and phytonutrients that help speed up the healing process.
- Remove the outer leaves from a head of cabbage.
- Use a rolling pin to gently bruise the leaves so the juices can be released.
- Wrap the cabbage leaves in foil and then warm them in the oven. The leaves should be warm but not hot.
- Put the warm cabbage leaves over the painful area. Secure them in place with a gauze bandage.
- Cover the entire area with plastic wrap to retain its warmth.
- Leave it on for half an hour.
- Follow this remedy twice daily for two days.
10. Olive Oil
The presence of a certain phenolic compound in olive oil helps alleviate inflammation resulting from a sprained ankle. Plus, olive oil has healing properties that help speed recovery.
- Heat the olive oil and then allow it to cool for some time. Apply the warm oil on the affected area and gently massage for few minutes. This will relax the muscle and relieve pain. Do this three or four times a day for a few days.
- Add one tablespoon of olive oil to one egg yolk and mix it well. Apply this mixture on the affected area and cover it with a cotton pad. Keep it bandaged for two days. Repeat the process for a few days.
Along with these remedies, you need to rest the sprained ankle for a few days. Putting stress on a sprained ankle will delay the healing process and may even cause further injury.
Expert Answers (Q&A)
Answered by Dr. Daniel Zanotti, MD (Orthopedic Surgeon)
How can one differentiate between a sprained and a broken ankle?
It can be difficult at times to differentiate between a sprain and a break. Both will cause the affected area to swell and be painful. A break, however, often results in more deformity to the joint and typically takes longer to heal.
Any injury that produces significant pain, swelling and/or deformity needs an evaluation by an orthopedic surgeon to diagnose and treat it properly. Difficulty walking or putting weight on the area means it needs to be properly examined.
Is it okay to walk on a sprained ankle?
If the injury is diagnosed as a sprain, you can typically begin to put weight on the area as the pain improves. Beginning to bear weight as well as working on motion exercises can help stimulate a sprain to heal.
However doing excessive walking or exercise can cause more swelling and prolong pain and recovery. Your orthopedist can recommend the proper regimen to maximize healing and recover.
What is the quickest way to reduce the swelling around a sprained ankle?
The symptoms of a sprain typically include swelling, bruising, and pain. All of these can be improved with vigorous icing and elevation. Compressive wraps can help, as will gentle range of motion. Anti-inflammatory medicines can be used to help with the pain and swelling of an injured joint.
Should a sprained ankle be wrapped while sleeping?
If compressive wraps are utilized, we recommend that they be removed at night or at least for several hours per day. A brace can provide similar support and stability to the joint. It is important to remove the wrap from time to time which will allow the skin to relax as well as facilitate icing and evaluation of the injury.
Please provide some important tips or inputs regarding sprained ankle for the benefit of our readers.
In review, it is important to properly assess the severity of any sprain. An orthopedic surgeon is specifically trained to diagnose and treat these injuries. Once a more serious break is ruled out, most sprains improve with intermittent immobilization, weight-bearing exercises, aggressive icing and elevation.
It is important to monitor the decrease (or increase) in pain as the activity is resumed. If the swelling or pain increases, it should signal the need to back off of physical activity and more aggressively ice, elevate and wrap/brace the area to allow further healing.
About Dr. Daniel Zanotti, MD: Dr. Zanotti is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon with a subspecialty certification in Orthopedic Sports Medicine and holds a Doctor of Medicine degree from Pennsylvania State University. He has been practicing at the Center for Orthopedics since 2003, after, completing his orthopedic residency and general surgery internship at The Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
During his sports medicine fellowship at the prestigious Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Los Angeles, Dr. Zanotti served as a team physician for the Los Angeles Lakers, Dodgers, Sparks, Galaxy and Kings, as well as the Anaheim Angels and Mighty Ducks.