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 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 does not 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, since another injury could make the sprain worse.

  • Apply an ice pack over the injured area for 15 to 20 minutes every 3 to 6 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 and then wrapping it with a thin towel. Continue to use 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 hours, apply heat from a warm shower or bath for 20 minutes several times daily. Alternating ice and heat may also be helpful.

  • You may use over-the-counter pain medicine to control pain, unless another medicine was prescribed. If you have chronic liver or kidney disease or ever had a stomach ulcer or gastrointestinal bleeding, 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.

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 seek 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 does not 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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