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RICE Isn’t Working for My Sprained Ankle — Now What?

Whether you hurt a tendon, ligament, or muscle, the first thing you should do for soft tissue injury is RICE. This handy acronym stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation.

But you have to do it correctly in order for it to help. Similarly, you have to know when your injury requires expert care.

Our expert providers see patients with sports injuries, including sprained ankles, at Premier Foot and Ankle Center on a regular basis. 

Of course, you don’t have to be a pro athlete to sprain an ankle. In fact, sprained ankles can happen with a simple misstep. Regardless of how you sustain the injury, you need to give it prompt attention, including the RICE protocol.

If you sprain an ankle, here’s how to use RICE correctly and when it’s time to schedule an appointment.

How to RICE right

No one wants to sit out with a sprained ankle. To get back on your feet pain-free, learn the RICE protocol and practice each step properly.


First up, stop what you’re doing and give your ankle a rest. You may be able to move around a bit, but you shouldn’t do anything that causes swelling or pain.


Icing is your next priority. Get ice on the injured ankle as soon as possible to help limit bruising, pain, and inflammation. For the best results, apply ice for 15-20 minutes. Then remove and repeat every 2-3 hours for the first 48-72 hours after your injury.


Next, wrap your ankle with an elastic bandage until it stops swelling. Start wrapping in the area farthest from your heart and work your way up.

When using an elastic bandage, avoid wrapping too tightly or you risk slowing your circulation.


Finally, raise your ankle above your heart as much as possible, especially at night. Doing this makes it easier for gravity to drain excess fluid from the area, which reduces swelling.

When you follow the RICE protocol correctly, you should start to see improvement within a few days. But it usually takes a sprain 2-4 weeks to heal completely.

When to see a doctor for a sprained ankle

Even a minor ankle injury can take several weeks to improve. But you should see signs of improvement within 2-5 days of home care with RICE. If you don’t, it’s time to see a doctor.

Other reasons to schedule an appointment for an ankle injury include:

All of these symptoms indicate a more severe ankle injury, including a broken bone.

At Premier Foot and Ankle Center, we can evaluate your injury and outline the best course of treatment. For instance, a badly sprained ankle could require an ankle support, cast, or boot to stabilize or immobilize the joint while it heals.

Some sprains even require surgical repair to fix a damaged ligament that won’t heal correctly.

On top of effectively treating a severe sprain, we may recommend physical therapy to restore flexibility, stability, strength, and range of motion. These elements support the joint and prevent future sprains. 

We also offer sports medicine services to help you avoid reinjury if you sustained your sprain performing a specific activity.

Generally speaking, it’s better to be safe than sorry when you sprain your ankle. If your injury doesn’t respond to RICE or if it seems severe, don’t wait to schedule an appointment. Seek care as soon as possible.

Did you sprain your ankle? Contact us at Premier Foot and Ankle Center to schedule a consultation with one of our experts in Worcester or Webster, Massachusetts, today.

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