How do I Treat a Torn Ankle?

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  • Written By: Dawna Theo
  • Edited By: J.T. Gale
  • Last Modified Date: 08 January 2020
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Torn ankles also can be called sprained ankles. A sprained ankle involves torn ligaments, usually on the lateral or outside of the ankle. The ankle has three ligaments to support the bones of the ankle. When one of these ligaments becomes torn, you may have a lot of pain depending on the severity of the tear. A torn ankle usually can be treated with the rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) treatment.

Many torn ankles are a result of an injury. To treat a torn ankle, remember which way your ankle turned or twisted to determine which ligament could be torn. There are three levels of torn ankles, ranging from mild to severe. Grade one is a mild tear; grade two is a medium tear; grade three may require ankle surgery and usually is quite painful.

A grade one torn ankle usually is a mild tear or stretching of the ligaments on the outside of the ankle. You may notice mild swelling and very little bruising of the ankle. The ankle joint may feel stiff, but you should be able to walk and possibly still be able to run on it.


To treat a torn ankle that is grade one, it generally is recommended that the ankle be kept above hip-level, and that ice be put on the ankle for approximately 20 minutes every other hour for the first 24 hours. If needed, ibuprofen usually can be taken to reduce swelling and pain for a couple of days. Usually, you should elevate the ankle whenever you can for a few days. Wearing an ankle brace for compression during physical activity might help if the ankle feels unstable.

A grade two torn ankle usually should be treated in much the same way as a grade one except the RICE treatment should be used longer. You may not be able to walk easily on your ankle without limping for a few weeks. Your ankle may be very swollen and bruised.

As soon as possible, the ankle typically should be elevated above hip-level. Resting the ankle for a few days and not placing much pressure on it while walking usually should help. Apply ice to the ankle 20 minutes on and 40 minutes off for the next three days. An ankle brace can help to compress the torn ankle and give it stability. Ibuprofen can be taken for a few days to reduce swelling and pain.

It usually is recommended that you go to the doctor if the ankle is not improving after a week of rest. Recovery from a grade two torn ankle can take two to three months. You may be able to ease back into exercise after a few weeks if you are careful and wear an ankle brace.

To treat a torn ankle that is grade three is a more-involved process. A grade three torn ankle is considered a complete rupture or tear of the ankle ligament. The pain, bruising, and swelling will be severe. You will not be able to walk on it at all. Usually, you should see a doctor with this type of torn ankle as it may require surgery.

Whenever you return to a regular exercise program after a tear, you usually should treat a torn ankle with care. When you feel ready to exercise, you typically should start slowly and gradually increase intensity. Doing ankle-circle exercises, rotations, and stretches every day can help keep your ankle from getting stiff. It usually is advisable that you avoid high-impact exercise if you feel you might again injure the ankle.



Discuss this Article

Post 3

Cold compresses are great for a swollen ankle that is a result of an ankle sprain injury. However, don't use ice directly on the problem. This could cause the pain to get worse temporarily, or cause damage to the skin. A soft ice pack or a cold gel compress is the best type of treatment if you want to use cold to treat an ankle injury.

Post 2

I had a mild torn ankle from a sports injury last year, and stayed off it for several weeks. This allowed my ankle injury to heal quickly, which would not have been possible if I had continued to put weight on it.

Post 1

A torn ankle could be a catch all concept that could indicate a variety of problems, from a torn ligament to an actual break. This is why anyone who experiences a severe ankle sprain or other type of ankle injury should get it checked out by a doctor.

Diagnosing your injury without medical advice could lead to more serious problems down the road. And if you do have a tear, early diagnosis and the proper treatment will help it heal much faster than if you treat yourself for the wrong problem.

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