A foot sprain occurs when the ligaments that cross the foot are torn. These injuries can come about from overuse or from landing hard on an uneven surface. Once the ligaments are torn, it's important to see your doctor to find out how bad the sprain is and whether you'll need additional therapy.
Most mild sprains need nothing more than RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation) to heal. In fact, one of the simplest, yet most effective, home remedies for a sprained ankle or foot is to alternately immerse your foot in warm and cold water.
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As you begin to regain movement, soaking your foot in ice water helps you to regain mobility and ease the pain from rehabilitation exercises.
Read more: How to Care for a Sprained Foot
Confirm Your Diagnosis
Visit your doctor and have her look at your foot to confirm that it's a sprain. The doctor can also give you an update on where you are in the healing process. Severe foot sprains may need professional rehabilitation.
Don't undertake rehabilitation exercises on your own unless your doctor authorizes you to do so. Transition from simple RICE to an ice bath for a sprained ankle or foot once your doctor gives you the go-ahead.
Prepare a Warm-Water Bath
Fill your first basin with water that's warm enough to soothe your foot, but not so hot that it hurts to put your foot in the basin. Drugstores carry plastic basins specifically designed for soaking feet. In a pinch, you can also use a 5-gallon plastic bucket.
Prepare an Ice Bath
Add about an ice tray's worth of cubes to a second foot basin. Soaking your foot in ice water is one of the most effective ways to help relieve swelling, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Place Your Foot in Warm Water
Set your sprained foot in a warm bath and allow it to soak for 10 to 15 minutes. Starting with a warm-water soak helps to loosen up the foot muscles, which facilitates better range of motion.
Test Your Mobility
When you take your foot out of the warm bath, test your mobility by carefully wiggling your foot up and down for about 30 seconds. If the motion is painful, stop immediately. This means your foot has not yet healed enough for mobility. Otherwise, continue stretching up, then down, for a total of 10 intervals of 30 seconds each.
Soak Your Foot in Ice Water
Immerse your foot in a cold bath immediately following your mobility exercises. Allow the foot to soak for about 10 minutes. Soaking your feet in ice water will help stop any excessive swelling that could occur after moving your foot for the first time.
Remove your foot from the ice water when the cold is too much to stand. Pat your foot dry with a clean, dry towel. If your doctor has suggested a brace or bandage, put it on once your foot is clean and dry.
If your foot is still sore after the mobility exercises and soaking feet in ice water, return the foot to the warm water once again to soothe the muscles.
Additional Home Treatments
Epsom salts is one of the classic home remedies for a sprain. Add it to the warm water basin when you do your alternating warm and cold foot baths. Or just sprinkle Epsom salts in your regular bathtub before taking a full-body soak. Over-the-counter medications, like ibuprofen and acetaminophen, can further ease pain and swelling, if needed.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.