Recovery Timeline For Ankle Sprains
Each patient will experience a different recovery process, depending on their needs. This is a general timeline but may not fit your needs exactly. The severity of injury also impacts the recovery process. As a general rule, most ankle injuries take 4-8 weeks to heal.
Some factors that may impact a patients recovery time include whether or not they are a smoker, if they are overweight, if they have arthritis, diabetes, or any other underlying health conditions. It is important to inform doctors and physiotherapists of concurrent medical conditions, as they may impact treatment.
What Are The Symptoms Of An Ankle Sprain
The symptoms of ankle sprain are pain, swelling, bruising, and stiffness. Why is there such swelling and bruising? Because the ligaments that support your ankle get overstretched or torn.
They are very common injuries and can affect anyone, from professional athletes to those with limited mobility.
The first step is to check for the symptoms of a sprain, which include:
The tried-and-true treatment protocol for ankle sprains includes rest, ice, compression , and elevation .
However, new research is showing that the RICE protocol may not be the best course of action. More on that below.
How To Know When You Need Extra Help
Ideally, you should see your doctor or physical therapist right away to get help with your ankle sprain. Your injury could involve more than just a sprain. Depending on what happened, you could have stretched tendons, fractures, a cartilage injury, torn ligaments or torn tendons.
If you are suffering from the following symptoms, you may be dealing with more than just a sprain.
- Ankle weakness.
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How Do You Treat A More Severe Ankle Sprain
Research demonstrates thatone to two out of 10 people who have had a third-degree ankle sprain experience chronic ankle instability. Ankle instability leaves the ankle at a much higher risk for unexpected ankle twists and increased sprains.
The type of treatment utilized for your case will vary depending on the type and severity of your sprain. Most likely, your treatment will involve one or more of the following:
- For more severe ankle sprains, immobilization is often needed. Your doctor may fit you in a boot or prescribe crutches for some time to prevent movement of the ankle joint, and to allow the ankle to heal.
- Physical therapy is often an integral part of treating an ankle sprain. Our physicians often prescribe physical therapy as a way to see if you can get better on your own or if more action may be needed. Our Physical Therapists work with you as a team to build back strength, range of motion, stability, and confidence on your feet.
- If inflammation wont go away following these other measures, your doctor may prescribe steroid injections.
Use Pain To Guide Your Treatment
Let pain be your guide. Do not exceed 3/10 pain during the rehab exercises.
If you are experiencing pain greater than 3/10 during or after the exercises, then you probably did too much.
Changes in movement patterns can initially be protective, but walking normally should be resumed as soon as possible.
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How Is An Ankle Sprain Diagnosed
An ankle sprain is diagnosed by a health care professional by looking at the ankle and asking about how the injury occurred. The ankle may also be x-rayed to check for any broken bones.
If the sprain is severe, your doctor may order more imaging tests, including an MRI and CT scan.
That being said, from a practical standpoint, you can usually diagnose an ankle sprain yourself using some common sense.
For example: if your ankle is a bit swollen and stiff but starts to improve after 2-3 days, then you likely have a minor sprain.
On the other hand, if your ankle swells the size of a grapefruit with heavy bruising and discolouration, you are likely dealing with a grade 2 or grade 3 sprain.
Importance Of Treatment For Ankle Injuries
You should always talk to your doctor if you suspect you have sprained your ankle or suffered another type of ankle injury. Trying to tough it out or walk it off can end up causing more damage to overstretched and torn soft tissues. When an ankle sprain or other type of ankle injury doesnt heal properly, it makes you more likely to suffer another ankle injury in the future. The way your ankle heals after an injury will affect the stability of your ankle joint going forward. When you see a doctor for an ankle sprain, they will not only help you with pain management and determining the right treatment for you, but they will also help with preventing future ankle injuries.
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What Is A Sprained Ankle
Your ankle joint connects your foot with your lower leg. Three ligaments keep your ankle bones from shifting out of place. A sprained ankle is when one of these ligaments is stretched too far or torn.
Doctors grade ankle sprains by how severe they are:
- Mild . Your ligaments are stretched but not torn. Your ankle still feels stable. You may have some pain and stiffness.
- Moderate . One or more ligaments are partially torn. The joint isnât totally stable, and you canât move it as much as usual. You have swelling and moderate pain.
- Severe . One or more ligaments are totally torn, and your ankle is unstable. You have a lot of pain and canât move it.
Types Of Ankle Sprains
The most common type of ankle injury is the ankle sprain. There are three types of ankle sprains that refer to the severity of the injury and also correlate with an approximate healing time. Here are the three levels of an ankle sprain and what you can expect with each of these types of ankle sprain.
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What Are Treatment Options For A Sprained Ankle
The RICE method is a common, effective treatment for an ankle sprain. RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevate.
Resting involves avoiding activities that cause pain and swelling in the ankle, such as walking or driving a car. Icing involves applying an ice pack to the sprain for 15 to 20 minutes every two to three hours.
Compression can help reduce swelling and pain caused by the sprain. Your doctor can show you how to use a compression wrap to wrap your ankle. Elevating involves raising your ankle above the level of your heart, such as by resting your foot on a mound of pillows while you watch television. This can help reduce swelling in the ankle by allowing fluid to drain back up your leg.
Other treatments for a sprained ankle include medicines, devices, physical therapy, and surgery.
Over-the-counter medicines like ibuprofen and acetaminophen can reduce pain caused by the sprain. Devices like compression tape and a walking boot can help stabilize the sprain. Physical therapy can restore motion, strength, flexibility, and stability to your ankle. Surgery may be used as a last resort to repair or reconstruct a ligament that wont heal.
Your doctor can discuss all your available treatment options for a sprained ankle during an appointment and work closely with you until it is completely healed.
Second Degree Or Grade 2 Ankle Sprain
A little more severe is a second degree sprain, which Sampsell says usually involves 50 percent of the ligament tearing and will have more swelling and pain and loss of mobility.
When youre diagnosed with a second degree sprain, you can anticipate a longer recovery than 4 weeks. In general, a second degree sprain can take 4 to 6 weeks to heal.
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Can I Go Back To Sports
If you have an ankle sprain, you’ll probably need to take some time off from sports and other strenuous physical activities. Make sure your sprained ankle is completely healed first.
You can go back when:
- The swelling goes down.
- The sport does not cause pain.
- The doctor says it’s OK.
- You can bear weight without a limp.
- You have your full range of motion.
- Your strength returns to normal.
What’s The Best Way To Prevent Ankle Sprains
Ankle sprains are a common injury, and the best way to prevent them is by doing ankle exercises to improve strength and flexibility, using proper footwear and avoiding dangerous activities.
Focus on unilateral exercises like lunges and squats. Simply balancing on one foot can help build the intrinsic foot muscles and stabilizers to help prevent ankle sprains.
Pro tip: balance on one leg while you’re brushing your teeth at night.
Ankle sprains can occur due to a number of factors, including overuse and lack of ankle stability.
So we must strengthen your ankles ability to withstand loads at different angles.
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Can I Prevent A Sprained Ankle
It’s impossible to prevent all ankle sprains. But these tips can make another one less likely:
- Stretch regularly to keep your ankles flexible.
- Do ankle range of motion and strengthening exercises to keep your muscles strong.
- Always warm up before playing sports, exercising, or doing any other kind of physical activity.
- Watch your step when you’re walking or running on uneven or cracked surfaces.
- Don’t overdo things. Being tired can make an injury more likely.
- Use tape, lace-up ankle braces, or high-top shoes to support the ankle.
- Wear shoes that fit well. Tie any laces and close any Velcro or other straps to make the shoes as supportive as possible.
- Don’t wear shoes with high heels.
When To Get Help For A Sprained Ankle
Someone with a sprained ankle should go to the ER right away if it any of the following occurs:
- The joint appears deformed
- The injured person is pale or has an unsteady pulse
- The injured person experiences paralysis, tingling, or extreme pain
You may also need to see your doctor or a specialized sports medicine doctor if you have a severe sprain and/or your symptoms persist despite practicing R.I.C.E. at home.
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Key Requirements For Returning To Activity
Range of Motion:
- Maintaining range of motion is vitally important. In severe ankle sprains a period of immobilization might be required but once allowed you should start to move your ankle as soon as possible. Your physical therapist will be able to provide exercises and perform manual techniques that can expedite the process. Lacking range of motion can put unnecessary stress on other ankle/lower limb structures when your return to sport.
Balance and Proprioception:
- Some people feel more confident if they have some support around their ankle when returning to their activity. This is usually a short term strategy and it is important that you do not become dependent on these. In certain circumstances where the ligaments are very lax, wearing a supportive brace might be a good idea. However, your physical therapist or doctor will advise you on this.
- It is common for some residual swelling to remain within the ankle joint in the latter stages of rehab. Mild swelling that does not affect function or cause pain might be fine and you can still return to activity. However, ideally you should not have swelling after activity and this is indicative of good healing. Again, consulting with your physical therapist or doctor is vital on returning to activity.
When To Call Your Doctor
Most sprained ankles heal without specific medical treatment. But some cases may need medical attention. Talk to your doctor if you:
- Have severe or persistent pain that does not improve with over-the-counter pain medications and RICE
- Do not feel better within a week
The following symptoms may indicate a bone fracture:
- Severe or persistent pain
- Extremely swollen foot or ankle
- Inability to walk without pain
- Severe pain in the bony bumps on each side of the ankle
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Ankle Sprains Can Take A Long Time To Heal Properly
Spraining an ankle is a common injury that can be quite painful and debilitating. Unfortunately, many people dont take the time to heal properly and end up reinjuring the ankle. Being patient is essential. After the initial healing period of an ankle sprain has been completed you need to slowly increase ankle strength and stability. Jumping into activities too quickly may eventually lead to chronic ankle instability.
What Should You Do To Shorten Ankle Sprain Recovery Time
If you happen to sprain you ankle, it is important to go to a doctor to have it checked out. It is not easy to tell the difference between a sprain and a broken bone, thus an x-ray is important to determine which one it is. It is rare to do a surgery for an ankle sprain. Most minor ankle sprains are treated via functional rehabilitation programs. Ankle sprain recovery time will be shorter if you follow your doctors directions to the letter. Generally, there are 6 phases of rehabilitation.
1. Protection of the injury: Controlling the Swelling and Relieving pain
When nursing the injury, you should try and rest to avoid strenuous movements of the ankle. You can have an ankle boot or brace to help restrain the movement. Whenever you feel like the ankle is becoming hot, place ice on it for 20-30 minutes. Support the injured tissue by using a compression bandage. To reduce the swelling, you can have your ankle elevated above your heart, and you can also use anti-inflammatory drugs. Besides, you can take some painkillers to relieve the pain.
2. Get Full Motion
If you take proper care of the injured ankle, the ligaments will heal. However, you should make sure that the scar tissue is formed well to prevent it from tearing again in future. You should do guided exercises as well as get massages to lengthen the healing scar tissue. This will help you get back your full range of motion.
3. Get Muscle Strength Back
4. Have Normal Foot Biomechanics
6. Get Back to Sport
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Do Ankle Sprains Heal On Their Own
Most sprains heal on their own, but rebuilding strength in your ankle can help prevent future injuries. If you don’t allow your ankle ligaments time to heal, you may have long-lasting instability or repeat ankle sprains. If your symptoms continue for more than four to six weeks after injury and you still feel weakness when walking on your foot, you may have a chronic ankle sprain.
How Are Ankle Sprains Diagnosed
To diagnose ankle sprains, doctors ask about the injury and do an exam. They’ll check the bones and soft tissue of the ankle, watch the person’s range of motion, and do strength tests.
Sometimes, the doctor may order an X-ray or other imaging study to see if there are other injuries, such as a broken bone.
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Need To See A Professional
So how long does a severe ankle sprain take to heal? Now that we have discussed the answers, if youre dealing with a sprained ankle and dont think its healing properly, you should consult a . Sprains affect the ankle ligaments, meaning they wont require an x-ray. Instead, clinicians perform a series of tests, so youll be able to determine the grade and start the road to recovery faster.
How Long Does It Take To Recover From A Sprained Ankle
Recovery time from a sprained ankle will depend on the severity of the sprain. Most ankle sprains are mild and only need ice and elevation. Mild sprains typically begin to feel better in a few days to a week and heal by six weeks.
More severe ankle sprains could take more than a few weeks or months to fully recover. Severe sprains may cause excruciating pain, crutches may be needed. A return to regular activities may be delayed for weeks or months.
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How Long Does A Sprained Ankle Take To Heal
You probably know the feeling: youre walking down a flight of stairs and roll your ankle the wrong way. It can be such an awkward experience to roll your ankle, and you might even stumble or fall, adding to the embarrassment. In many cases, rolling your ankle leaves you feeling more embarrassed and uncomfortable than anything else. However, there are also times when you twist your ankle and suffer an ankle injury. Twisting your ankle might sound like something that goes away on its own, but there are also times when you may need to see a doctor. From a sprained ankle to ankle fracture treatment, your doctor can diagnose what type of ankle injury youve sustained and determine the best course of treatment for you.
Different types of ankle sprains and injuries have different healing times. If you recently injured your ankle and are wondering about sprained ankle recovery, then continue reading to learn more about what to expect with a variety of common ankle injuries.
What Are The Types Of Ankle Sprains
There are three types of ankle sprains based on how much ligament damage occurred:
- Grade 1 . The ligament fibers stretched slightly or there is a very small tear. Your ankle will have minor swelling and tenderness to the touch.
- Grade 2 . The ligament is torn, but it isnt a complete tear. Your ankle has swelling over the injury and it hurts to move.
- Grade 3 . The ligament is torn completely. Your ankle has significant swelling, the injury is painful and walking is difficult.
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