How to Splint an Ankle With a Pillow

How to Splint an Ankle with Common Bedding

Ankle injuries are common and they can be very painful. Twist an ankle at home and you probably don't want to call an ambulance since it's not life-threatening. On the other hand, you also don't want to cause more damage by accidentally putting pressure on your injured ankle en route to the doctor's office, clinic, or emergency department.

The solution? Use a pillow and some tape to splint the ankle. It's the easiest way to make a splint at home using things you probably have lying around. Pillows aren't tough enough for long leg fractures like the tibia or the femur, but they will provide enough support for an injured ankle.


Assessing the Ankle

Young woman having ankle pain
Science Photo Library / Getty Images

Assessing the ankle includes assessing the function of the foot below the ankle. There are three main points to assess.

  1. Circulation: Assess circulation by feeling the temperature of the foot. Compare the temperature of the injured foot to the temperature of the uninjured foot. You can also assess circulation by feeling for the presence of a pulse in the foot or by checking capillary refill. Note any difference in temperature between the patient's two feet.
  2. Sensation: Assess the sensation of the foot by touching a toe and asking the patient to identify which toe is being touched. Note any numbness or tingling the patient feels when his or her injured foot is touched.
  3. Motion: Have the patient wiggle the toes on the injured foot. Note any inability of the patient to move the toes or foot.

Position the Pillow

Position a pillow under an injured foot

Verywell/Rod Brouhard

Put the pillow under the injured ankle. Make sure the pillow reaches from the lower leg to the foot. It's important to immobilize the bones above and below the injury.


Wrap the Pillow Around the Ankle

Pillow around an injured ankle

Verywell/Rod Brouhard

Wrap the pillow around the ankle. Tape above and below the ankle injury. Take care not to wrap the tape too tight. Almost any strong tape can be used. Duct tape was used here.


Assess the Splinted Foot

Assessing a splinted ankle

Verywell/Rod Brouhard

Once the ankle has been immobilized with the pillow, re-assess the function of the foot below the injured ankle. Note any differences between the first and second assessments.

A pillow splint will provide enough support for an injured ankle to get the patient to medical care. A pillow splint is not a long-term solution. This is just enough to get to a healthcare professional.

You can still ice an injured ankle once it has been splinted. Just be sure to put the ice pack over the pillow, not under it. Believe it or not, you can easily cause frostbite with an ice pack.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Ellur S. Modified pillow splintIndian J Plast Surg. 2011;44(3):529–530. doi:10.4103/0970-0358.90859

  2. Boulton AJ, Armstrong DG, Albert SF, et al. Comprehensive foot examination and risk assessment: a report of the task force of the foot care interest group of the American Diabetes Association, with endorsement by the American Association of Clinical EndocrinologistsDiabetes Care. 2008;31(8):1679–1685. doi:10.2337/dc08-9021

  3. Pandey A, John BM. Capillary refill time. Is it time to fill the gaps?Med J Armed Forces India. 2013;69(1):97–98. doi:10.1016/j.mjafi.2012.09.005

  4. Wilkerson GB. Biomechanical and neuromuscular effects of ankle taping and bracingJ Athl Train. 2002;37(4):436–445.

  5. O'Toole G, Rayatt S. Frostbite at the gym: a case report of an ice pack burnBr J Sports Med. 1999;33(4):278–279. doi:10.1136/bjsm.33.4.278

Additional Reading

By Rod Brouhard, EMT-P
Rod Brouhard is an emergency medical technician paramedic (EMT-P), journalist, educator, and advocate for emergency medical service providers and patients.