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Sprained Ankle: Using a Compression Wrap


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Ankle sprains are common injuries that can result in lifelong problems. Some people with repeated or severe sprains can develop long-term joint pain and weakness. Treating a sprained ankle can help prevent ongoing ankle problems.

Key points

If an ankle sprain does not heal correctly, the joint may become unstable, resulting in a weakened and easily reinjured ankle. Proper initial care of your sprained ankle is critical.

  • A compression wrap helps decrease swelling. If swelling is kept to a minimum, you will heal faster and get back on your feet sooner.
  • Applying a compression wrap is easy and can be done at home.
  • Elastic bandages are inexpensive and available at most drugstores.
  • You can wear a protective brace, such as a splint or a device to keep your ankle from moving (immobilizer), over a compression wrap. This can help prevent further injury to your ankle when you try to bear weight on it.

If you would like more information about the care of ankle sprains, the following resources are available:

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An ankle sprain occurs when ligaments that connect the bones in the foot, ankle, and lower leg are stretched or torn.

An ankle sprain often happens when you make a rapid shifting movement with your foot planted, for example, when playing soccer or getting tackled in football. Most commonly, the ankle rolls outward and the foot turns inward in what is called an inversion injuryClick here to see an illustration.. It results in stretching and tearing of the ligaments that connect the bones in the foot, ankle, and lower leg on the outside of the ankle.

Less commonly, the ankle rolls inward and the foot turns outward in an eversion injuryClick here to see an illustration., damaging the ligaments at the inside of the ankle.

Test Your Knowledge

When you sprain your ankle, you stretch and tear ligaments.

True
False

A compression wrap helps decrease swelling. Wear a compression wrap until the swelling is gone. The compression wrap will not protect the ankle.

Test Your Knowledge

Compression wraps help decrease swelling.

True
False

To help control swelling, some doctors recommend wrapping your ankle with an elastic bandage, also called an ACE wrap. This product can be purchased at most drugstores. To apply a compression wrap:

  • Cut several horseshoe-shaped pieces of cloth felt to form a 0.5 in. (1.3 cm) thick pad. The pad will be placed (open end up) around the outside anklebone for cushioning.
  • Roll up the elastic bandage if it isn't already. Hold your ankle at about a 90-degree angle. Start where your toes meet the body of your foot. Hold the loose end of the bandage at the side of your foot. Wrap the bandage around the ball of your foot once, keeping it somewhat taut with a light pull.
  • After this first wrap, slowly start circling your way around the arch of the foot. Pull the bandage diagonally from the bottom of the toes across the foot's top and circle it around the ankle. Now bring the bandage diagonally across the top of the foot and under the arch in a figure-eight pattern.
  • When you get to the anklebone, wrap the bandage around the felt piece so it stays in place at the outside anklebone. Continue around the ankle and foot in a figure eight, moving toward the heel on the bottom and toward the calf at the top of the eight. The wrap should cover the entire foot and end several inches above the ankle. Most compression wraps are self-fastening or come with clip fasteners. If not, use tape to secure the end.
  • The wrap should be snug but should not cut off circulation to the foot. Check your toes. If they become purplish or blue, cool to the touch, or numb or tingly, the wrap is too tight and should be loosened. Also, loosen the wrap at night before bedtime.

See a picture of how to wrap an ankleClick here to see an illustration..

Test Your Knowledge

When applied properly, the elastic bandage should be snug and offer your ankle firm support.

True
False

For more information about applying a compression wrap, talk to:

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerAdam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerWilliam H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Last RevisedJanuary 23, 2012

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