Foot Sprain

A sprain is a stretching or tearing of the ligaments that hold a joint together. There are usually no broken bones. Sprains generally take from 3 to 6 weeks to heal. A sprain may be treated with a splint, walking cast, or special boot. Mild sprains may not need any additional support.

Home care

The following guidelines will help you care for your injury at home:

  • Keep your leg raised (elevated) when sitting or lying down. This is very important during the first 48 hours to reduce swelling. Stay off the injured foot as much as possible until you can walk on it without pain. If needed, you may use crutches during the first week for this purpose. Crutches can be rented at many pharmacies or surgical/orthopedic supply stores.

  • You may be given a cast shoe to wear to prevent movement in your foot. If not, you can use a sandal or any shoe that doesn't put pressure on the injured area until the swelling and pain go away. If using a sandal, be careful not to hit your foot against anything. Another injury could make the sprain worse.

  • Apply an ice pack over the injured area for 15 to 20 minutes every 2 to 3  hours. You should do this for the first 24 to 48 hours. You can make an ice pack by filling a plastic bag that seals at the top with ice cubes. Then wrap it with a thin towel to protect your skin and prevent skin damage. Don't apply ice directly on your skin. Keep using ice packs for relief of pain and swelling as needed. As the ice melts, try not to get the wrap, splint, or cast wet. After 48 to 72 hours, or as directed by your healthcare provider, apply heat from a warm shower or bath for 20 minutes a few times daily. Alternating ice and heat may also be helpful. Follow your healthcare provider's directions.

  • You may use over-the-counter pain medicine to control pain, unless another medicine was prescribed. If you have ongoing (chronic) liver or kidney disease, ever had a stomach ulcer or gastrointestinal bleeding, or take a blood thinner, talk with your healthcare provider before using these medicines.

  • If you were given a splint or cast, keep it dry. Bathe with your splint or cast well out of the water, protected with 2 large plastic bags, sealed with tape or rubber-bands at the top end. If a fiberglass splint or cast gets wet, you can dry it with a hair dryer on cool setting.

  • You may return to sports after healing, when you can run without pain.

Closeup of woman's hands wrapping ice pack in thin towel.
Always wrap ice in a thin towel before putting it on your skin.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed. Sometimes fractures don’t show up on the first X-ray. Bruises and sprains can sometimes hurt as much as a fracture. These injuries can take time to heal completely. If your symptoms don’t improve or they get worse, talk with your healthcare provider. You may need a repeat X-ray or other tests.

When to get medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • The plaster cast or splint gets wet or soft

  • The fiberglass cast or splint gets wet and doesn't dry for 24 hours

  • Pain or swelling increases, or redness appears

  • A bad odor comes from within the cast

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or above lasting for 24 to 48 hours, or as advised

  • Chills

  • Toes on the injured foot become cold, blue, numb, or tingly

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