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How to Wrap an Ankle After An Injury

How To Wrap A Sprained Ankle

Ankle injuries are, unfortunately, common and can be very painful. Whether you sprained your ankle playing sports or suffered a more serious ankle injury during a work-related accident, these injuries can take some time to heal. In order to help make sure that your ankle heals quickly and properly, you may want to wrap your ankle.

The right ankle wrap can help expedite the recovery process, provide stability, help manage the swelling, and prevent you from doing further damage to your injury. However, in order to take advantage of these benefits, it is important to know the right way to wrap an ankle, which means knowing what to do and what not to do as you wrap your ankle.

Getting Started With an Ankle Wrap

Before you get started with your ankle wrap, it is important to know why you are using an ankle wrap. Your ankle wrap offers compression for your injury, which is one of the important steps in R.I.C.E (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation), which is used to treat a sprain.

The wrap offers “compression” and can provide some stability and protection, especially in those first 24-48 hours after you have injured your ankle. Most minor sprains will subside over this—but if you have a more severe sprain, it may last longer.

Most experts recommend that you only wrap your ankle during the day for support and protection, while you continue to ice, elevate and rest the injury. While some people feel a sense of comfort from a compression wrap at night—unless it provides pain relief, you shouldn’t have your ankle wrapped while you sleep.

While there are a few different materials you can use to wrap your ankle—an ACE® brand bandage is the most common and popular choice as it has elastic for mobility and breathability but will still provide enough support when appropriately applied.

A Note on Ankle Wrap Compression

Before you get started with an ankle wrap—there are a few things that you need to keep in mind. First, the right amount of compression is key.

As you start to wrap your ankle, make sure that you aren’t wrapping your ankle too tight, as too much compression will restrict circulation and blood flow to the injured ligaments in your ankle. You need to have blood flow to an injury for it to heal—in fact, this is why your ankle will swell right away. Your blood vessels are expanding to help bring more blood and healing properties to the injury. Too much compression will restrict this effect.

However, if you wrap the ankle too loosely, you can allow too much movement of the joint. The key to a successful ankle wrap is providing some support and stability as it heals. If it isn’t tight enough to offer support—then the ankle wrap is virtually useless.

Step-By-Step Guide to Properly Wrap An Ankle

If you are ready to wrap your sprained ankle, here is a step-by-step guide on how to do this properly. First, make sure that you have your bandage, a Velcro piece or fastener, scissors, and some athletic tape handy to complete the job.

  1. Wash and dry your foot and ankle. Keeping the area clean and dry will make sure you don’t develop any rashes or skin issues underneath your wrap. Do not wear socks underneath your ankle wrap.


  1. Make sure you have enough ACE® bandage to go around your foot several times. A proper wrap will cover the area several times. The longer, the better—make sure you have some scissors available to cut off any extra bandage material if necessary.


  1. Place your leg straight out and keep your foot flexed at a 90-degree angle. Try to keep your ankle in this position while wrapping as it will help provide stability.


  1. Wrap your bandage around the ball of your foot (beneath your toes) two times-making the bandage tight but not some tight that it restricts circulation.


  1. Continue wrapping the bandage around the base of your foot and up around 3 inches above your ankle in a figure-eight pattern. Make sure you are keeping your bandage taught but comfortable while you do this. Continue the pattern several times.


  1. Once you have covered your ankle wrap in horizontal rows until the entire area from your foot to the right above your ankle is covered—do not wrap your toes.


  1. When complete, use a fastener, Velcro®, or piece of tape to keep the roll in place. Do not try to “tuck” in the bandage to keep it secure—as it will only fall off.

Once you have wrapped your ankle, attempt to move the joint, your wrap should be tight enough that your ankle can’t roll or move—but it shouldn’t be uncomfortable or feel as though it is restricting your circulation. If your foot or ankle starts to hurt from the bandage, or if you begin to feel a tingling sensation, remove the bandage and repeat the process.

Post-Sprain Care

In addition to wrapping your ankle, you should keep icing it and taking Ibuprofen in order to help with pain and swelling. While it is reasonable to experience pain, bruising, and swelling for up to two weeks—if you continue to experience these side effects much longer than this, then you will want to visit your doctor to make sure a more serious injury hasn’t occurred.

If you heard a popping noise at the injury, if you are struggling with instability in the ankle, or if you feel as though a specific bone is hurting in the foot—you may want to visit your doctor. This could be a sign that you tore a ligament in a Grade 3 sprain or that you broke a bone in your foot, and you may need further diagnosis.

With injuries like this, icing and wrapping your ankle alone won’t be enough to aid the healing process properly, and you should consider visiting an urgent care facility, your primary doctor, an orthopedist, or an experienced injury-care doctor.

Sprained ankles need to be cared for properly to prevent further serious injury, and the proper wrap support can help you get on the road to recovery.