Ankle injuries can happen to anyone, not just athletes. You can twist your ankle walking on an uneven surface or simply by not wearing proper footwear. If you've twisted, rolled, or sprained your ankle, you're already aware of the first symptom: pain. Depending on the severity of the injury, you probably experienced some pain right away. Regardless of the type of injury, however, you can expect that it will impact your day-to-day functioning, but just how much? Here's how you can be prepared so you can care for your injury, return to activity, and prevent future injuries.

An ankle sprain occurs when the foot suddenly twists or rolls and forces the ankle out of its normal position. In addition to pain, you may also experience swelling, bruising, and additional discomfort when you try to put weight on your foot. In these early stages, don't try and “tough it out” or limp through the pain which could cause more serious problems.

Immediately After Injury

Immediately after injury, discontinue activity and ice your ankle to reduce swelling. What you do in the next several days depends on your specific injury; an ankle sprain can take from a few days up to several weeks to heal.

If it's painful to walk or put weight on your foot, stay off your feet as much as possible. While you may be able to return to work or school, depending on your level of pain and discomfort, you should refrain from exercise and get as much rest as possible. If you must exercise, stick to light workouts that involve upper-body strengthening work. Make sure you don't put any weight on your lower body.

Since you may be temporarily immobile, use crutches if you need to get around. You can use non-prescription medications like Tylenol and Ibuprofen to manage your pain, but use caution, and if the pain is unbearable, you may want to see a doctor.

Continue to ice your ankle for the next 48 to 72 hours, for 20 minutes at a time every two to three hours. Keep your ankle elevated while you sleep to help with the swelling and pain.

When Swelling Subsides

When the swelling has subsided and you're able to put weight on your ankle, you may be able to return to activity. You should check with your doctor first. You may still feel pain at first, but that's just your muscles regaining strength for day-to-day movements.

Your recovery time will vary depending on the severity of your injury, so it's important to listen to your body; don't push yourself too hard too fast. It may be frustrating to lay low and stay off your ankle, but it's worth it to prevent long-term ankle issues.

Wear Ankle Support

When you're able to walk without crutches, wear a brace for additional support. An ankle brace fits comfortably in your shoe and supports your ankle and prevents unwanted movement. Keep in mind that if you've had a previous sprain, it's easier to turn your ankle and cause a new sprain due to increased ankle instability, wearing a brace can prevent re-injury.

Ankle injuries are extremely common, in fact every day in the U.S., 25,000 people sprain their ankle. While these injuries are painful and can hinder your daily activities, they're usually easy to treat with rest and proper care. Remember, don't try to push past your pain. Stay off your ankle as much as possible until the swelling decreases and you feel better. Now that that you know how to treat your injury; you'll be able to return to normal activity sooner than later if you follow these treatment guidelines.