What Is A Sprained Ankle
A sprained ankle occurs when you awkwardly twist your ankle. This injury can happen if you accidentally step in a hole or on something like a loose stone. It can also occur if you fall and land awkwardly on your foot.
When you suffer a sprain in your ankle, the tissues that hold your ankle bones together become stretched or torn. This is why walking becomes difficult and painful after an ankle sprain. Many times, your symptoms will persist until the ligaments in your ankle heal.
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.
How Long Does A Sprained Ankle Last
If youve sprained your ankle, I truly feel for you. An ankle sprain is such a frustrating injury. Believe me, Ive been through the pain myself! In your situation its totally natural to want to know how long your ankle sprain recovery will take.
Mild ankle sprains usually only last 2-3 weeks. However, a moderately sprained ankle can take 6-12 weeks to recover enough for full running training. Severe ankle sprains which require surgery may take up to 6 months for full post-operative recovery and return to sport.
So thats the quick answer. But lets go a little deeper into understanding ankle sprains, and look at what determines the healing time, and what you can do to speed up your recovery and get back to the sports and activities you enjoy.
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Low Vs High Ankle Sprain
The most common type of ankle sprain is a low ankle sprain, which refers to when you roll or twist your ankle inward and cause torn ligaments along the outside of the ankle. A high ankle sprain, however, refers to a less common though still serious ankle injury where the ligaments along the inside of your ankle become torn. A high ankle sprain can also impact bones and can occur along with an ankle fracture.
Tips For Faster Recovery From Sprained Ankle
First aid is the initial treatment for all cases of sprained ankles. It involves rest and medications to relieve pain and swelling, such as Advil . Though grade 1 ankle sprain does not affect mobility, it is crucial to avoid movement and weight bearing on the affected ankle.
Besides, you can wear a brace or bandage to prevent the joint from moving. Some people may use crutches to support balance and movement.
Only a doctor can diagnose your condition. Most doctors at urgent care clinics can diagnose a sprained ankle by assessing the symptoms and employing special tests such as squeeze tests. Radiographic imaging of the affected ankle may be necessary in some cases.
If you have a severe injury, your doctor may refer you to an orthopedist or foot and ankle surgeon.
Consider the following tips to support faster recovery and prevent long-term complications.
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What Can I Expect If I Have A Sprained Ankle
After giving your ankle time to heal and treating the sprain according to your healthcare providers recommendations, you’ll be able to get back to regular activities. Your prognosis depends on your commitment to building strength back in your ankle through exercises and rehabilitation. If your ankle hasn’t healed completely or you stopped the strengthening exercises, your injured ligament could weaken and put you at risk for future ankle sprains.
Your First Steps Matter
When you sprain your ankle, your outcome is greatly influenced by the steps you take immediately after your injury. If you can still bear weight on your ankle, we suggest that you apply the RICE method as soon as possible:
This technique can help with swelling and pain and allows you to better determine the extent of your sprain.
If your ankle responds to the RICE method and you notice a decrease in swelling after a day or two, keep up the good work.
If, however, your swelling doesnt abate and/or youre having trouble bearing weight, we recommend that you come see us as soon as possible so that we can use diagnostic imaging to take a closer look at the damage.
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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.
Grade I: Mild Ankle Sprain
2-3 week recovery time. The least severe of ankle sprains, a Grade I sprain will cause microscopic damage to the structure of the involved ankle ligament. Symptoms will include light localised tenderness and perhaps a little swelling, but not always. You will be unlikely to experience any instability around the ankle joint.
Typically the symptoms of a Grade I ankle sprain will only last 2-3 weeks. You will be able to walk on the ankle with minimal pain after only a few days and will be able to gradually reintroduce running after 7-10 days.
Dont be fooled though. Just because this is a less severe ankle injury, it doesnt mean you can get away with not doing any ankle rehab exercises to build strength and stability in your ankles, and improve your balance on one leg.
Ill be sharing some ankle rehab exercises to help your recover, later in this article.
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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 them.
Pro tip: balance on one leg while you’re brushing your teeth at night.
They 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.
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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How Long Should You Stay Off A Sprained Ankle
Okay, so this is the million dollar question for anybody with a sprained ankle who is just itching to get back to their sport or chosen activity!
Ultimately you should be guided by your physio and listen to your body at every stage of the process. Dont rush it.
Of course, the true answer depends on the severity of your ankle sprain, but Ive written a handy article which will help you to know if and when you can run with a sprained ankle, and how to re-introduce running when the time comes. The article also shares a follow-along ankle strengthening rehab routine you must try!
Ankle Exercises And Stretches After A Sprain
Certain exercises can rehabilitate your ankle. Your doctor or physical therapist may recommend a series of movements designed to restore strength to the area so you avoid future sprains.
Balance and stability training, as well as stretches designed to improve flexibility and range of motion, are especially helpful. The sooner youre able to start exercising your foot, the better. This will help promote healing. But dont overdo it!
Here are a few exercises to try when youre able:
- Walk, either with or without crutches.
- Trace the alphabet with your toe. This encourages ankle movement in all directions.
- Stand on one leg for 25 seconds to one minute to improve strength.
- Sit on a chair with the foot of the affected leg flat on the floor. Move your knee from side to side while keeping your foot flat. Do this for two to three minutes.
- Stretch your calf by placing your hands flat on a wall and positioning the injured leg behind you. Straighten the leg and hold for 25 seconds. Do this two to four times.
You can also talk to your doctor or physical therapist about using resistance bands in your exercise and recovery routine.
Your ankle is uniquely designed to support your body weight many times over when you walk, run, and engage in day-to-day activities.
Your ankle is made up of:
The ankle joint is formed by three bones. It works like a hinge to allow your foot to move easily in all directions. These bones are called:
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Tip #: Fully Restore Your Ankles Strength And Flexibility
And while the previous advice on how to heal a sprained ankle faster kind of touched upon the importance of rehab exercise, this one is going to help you fine-tune your ankle after an injury.
It’s time to focus on actually getting you back out there on the running tracks.
After the sprain, there has to be an adjustment period, and these exercises should help you get back into your old routine in no time:
You know what they say: You have to walk before you can run.
So, start moving every day, as much as you can, without pushing yourself too hard, of course.
With time, you’ll notice that bearing weight isn’t a problem anymore.
Take that as the first sign that complete recovery is just around the corner.
The next step towards the recovery is making your joint and the muscles around it strong again.
Not only are these strengthening exercises important in healing a sprained ankle faster, but they can prevent any future injuries, as well.
Another thing you should focus on is regaining balance and control that might be compromised as a result of the injury.
Also known as proprioception exercises , these workouts are aimed at improving your overall balance, as well as strengthening your ankle.
Even something as simple as single-leg standing can have a massive impact on your recovery.
Heal A Sprained Ankle Faster & Better
HEM Ankle Rehab is a complete ankle healing system that works for any new ankle sprain as well as all other types of ankle, foot and calf injuries. I designed HEM to ensure it is safe and easy to do for people of all ages and activity levels. HEM ensures you will be able to move pain free while also significantly reducing the risk of future injury.
HEM dramatically improves the quality and speed of the healing process by supporting and improving the bodys natural response to an injury. You can expect a significant improvement in healthy range of motion in the ankles, feet and calves you can expect much more strength and stability in the ankles and you can expect improved overall movement .
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Tip #: Dont Baby Your Injured Ankle
I know it seems like I’m going against everything I just said but read first, and judge later.
I promise it will all make sense in a moment!
As I said, you should keep the weight off of the injured ankle for the first couple of days or up to a week, depending on the severity of the sprain.
After that initial recovery period is over, and the swelling has subsided, you can move on to the second phase of your recovery.
Getting back into your exercise routine too soon will only cause further complications, but at the same time, waiting too long babying your sprain, so to speak will only prolong the loss of muscle activity.
Finding the middle ground is crucial in a situation like this.
Of course, that doesnt mean you should push yourself by all means, give your body some time to heal.
But as soon as the pain and swelling subside, you should start working on getting back to your ankles normal range of movement.
Another primary goal of this phase is to gradually up the amount of weight you put on the injured leg until it can carry your entire body’s weight again.
Several great exercises will help this phase go as smoothly as possible, so check them out:
Such as pushing your foot in a particular direction against resistance , without moving your ankle.
These exercises are a good choice, too, especially after the first few days have passed.
Remember to stick to small, gentle movements, though up and down, side to side, and circular motions.
Are You Looking For An Ankle And Foot Injury Physician You Can Trust
Injuries to the foot and ankle are among one of the most frequently occurring musculoskeletal injuries. The ankle can be injured doing fairly simple tasks such as walking on uneven surfaces, but its usually more severe when people play sports sprains or fractures often result from these activities. Dr. Stephen Chen is a specialist in treating foot and ankle injuries for athletes and active adults throughout the San Francisco East Bay Area. He provided sideline coverage for NCAA Division I athletics at the University of Cincinnati and Miami University . Since graduating, Dr. Chen has continued his love of sports coverage by volunteering for the San Francisco Marathon, the San Francisco Giant Race, and as the team physician for Northgate High School in Walnut Creek. Being a part of The Center for Sports Medicine allows Dr. Chen quick access to a multidisciplinary team of orthopedic surgeons, podiatrists, physiatrists, and physical therapists to return you to your highest functional level quickly and safely.
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How To Strengthen Your Ankle After A Sprain
To recover from an ankle sprain fully, you’ll need to restore the normal range of motion to your ankle joint and strengthen its ligaments and supporting muscles. Studies have shown that people return to their normal activities sooner when their treatment emphasizes restoring ankle function often with the aid of splints, braces, taping, or elastic bandages rather than immobilization . Called functional treatment, this strategy usually involves three phases: the RICE regimen in the first 24 hours to reduce pain, swelling, and risk of further injury range-of-motion and ankle strengthening exercises within 4872 hours and training to improve endurance and balance once recovery is well under way.
Generally, you can begin range-of-motion and stretching exercises within the first 48 hours and should continue until you’re as free of pain as you were before your sprain. Start to exercise seated on a chair or on the floor. As your sprained ankle improves, you can progress to standing exercises. If your symptoms aren’t better in two to four weeks, you may need to see a physical therapist or other specialist.
How Do You Make A Sprained Ankle Heal Faster
The best treatment for an ankle sprain is dictated by the severity of the injury. However, whether you have a Grade I, II or III ankle sprain, there are some things you can do from day one to help your sprained ankle to heal faster.
The old acronym R.I.C.E is definitely appropriate here, although in more severe cases Id add a P to make it P.R.I.C.E!
Protection If your ankle is painful upon weight bearing, and/or feels unstable, you might want to protect the injured ligaments and ankle joint in general by putting your ankle in an aircast boot until such time that you can get a proper diagnosis and treatment.
Rest You need to allow your sprained ankle to rest and avoid activities and movements that cause your ankle pain and discomfort. Youll become familiar with the sharp pain that you feel when your injured ligaments are stressed. Consider the fact that while those ligaments are healing, every time you feel that pain, youre potentially doing more damage and slowing your recovery. Listen to your body. Pain is there for a reason!
Ice You can use an ice pack on your sprained ankle to manage the swelling. Apply the ice pack for 20 minutes every 2-3 hours.
Compression Elastic bandages provide compression around your ankle which will help to reduce the swelling around your sprained ankle. Be sure to apply the compression evenly and dont wrap them so tight that you cut off the blood supply to your foot.
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