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  Sanford Downtown Walk-in Clinic
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  Sanford Health Walk-in Clinic
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  Sanford Health Walk-in Clinic
Serving all ages
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Sanford East Mandan Clinic

What is a sprained ankle?

Sprains occur when a ligament is overstretched. Ligaments are what hold your joints in place. Common sprain areas include ankles, knees and shoulders. Perhaps the most common, ankle sprains can occur when your foot lands on the ground at an angle or with too much force.


Ankle sprain symptoms may include:
  • Ankle pain, which can be mild to severe
  • Swelling
  • A popping sound when the injury occurs
  • Difficulty moving the ankle
  • Bruising
  • Instability of the ankle


Whether the injury is a mild or severe sprain, the name of the game to minimize damage is called R.I.C.E. treatment:
  • Rest: Avoid putting weight on your ankle.
  • Ice: Apply ice packs for about 20 minutes at a time every three hours for the first 24 hours to decrease swelling and pain. When the pain is gone, ice the injured ankle once or twice a day until symptoms are gone. Frozen gel packs or a bag of frozen peas works well.
  • Compress: Wear an elastic compression bandage to minimize swelling.
  • Elevate your ankle on pillows above heart level to help minimize swelling.

For pain and to reduce inflammation, try ibuprofen (children’s ibuprofen for youth) or naproxen. Mild ankle sprains take about one week to heal. A bad sprain may take as long as a month. Once healing is nearly complete, your doctor may recommend stretching and strengthening exercises to protect the ankle from future injury.

When to seek emergency care

If it is unclear whether the injury is a sprain or something more serious like a broken bone or torn tendon, seek medical care immediately.

Dr. Terry Wolf is a family medicine physician at Sanford East Mandan Clinic. Dr. Wolf earned his medical degree at Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine in East Lansing, Mich., and completed his residency and internship at Sparrow Hospital Family Practice in Lansing, Mich. In his free time, he enjoys baseball, softball, camping, fishing, running and golf. To request an appointment with Dr. Wolf, call (701) 667-5000 or visit

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