When To Call The Doctor
You should call your provider if you notice any of the following:
- You cannot walk, or walking is very painful.
- The pain does not get better after ice, rest, and pain medicine.
- Your ankle does not feel any better after 5 to 7 days.
- Your ankle continues to feel weak or gives away easily.
- Your ankle is increasingly discolored , or it becomes numb or tingly.
Recovering From A Sprained Ankle
How long it takes for you to recover will depend on how bad your sprain is. Mild-to-moderate sprains should heal enough to walk on within a few weeks. But it may take up to two or three months to get back to normal, including playing sports. If you have a very bad ankle sprain, it may take several months to recover, especially if you need surgery. Theres a risk of injuring your ankle again, especially in the first four to six weeks.
Although the pain in your ankle may have eased, you should wait until you have full range of motion and have rebuilt the strength in your ankle. If you start too soon, you may hurt your ankle again, which may lead to long-term problems. Ask your doctor or physiotherapist when you can safely take up your normal activities again, including sports.
Sprained Ankle Recovery Time
Orthopedists deal with sprained ankles just about every day. Theyre the most common injury by a landslide and a sort of inevitability. Most people sprain their ankle at least once in life, and especially active people tend to do it a few times. However, each sprained ankle requires its own care and diagnosis. Sprained ankle recovery time and treatment can change a lot based on how bad the sprain is, how it happened, and how long it was until the patient sought care.
You can treat almost every sprained ankle with the RICE method. The RICE method is simple: rest, ice, compression, elevation. Get off the ankle, put some ice on it, wrap it, and keep it above your heart when youre resting. If you do that, it will feel like no time at all until your sprained ankle is fully recovered. As it stands, too much standing can only do more damage. If you want your sprained ankle recovery time to be as short as possible, you need to keep off of it as much as you can bear. Remember: its better to deal with it now than to deal with it forever.
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Ankle Sprain: What Can You Do
In the first few days after an ankle injury, people are usually advised to rest their foot, keep it elevated, cool their ankle and use a compression bandage. Resting your foot for a while at first can help reduce the swelling and pain. But if the ankle sprain isn’t severe, there are good reasons to already start doing suitable exercises very early on.
Cooling your ankle with an ice pack may provide some pain relief. There isn’t much research on how effective cooling the ankle is. If you feel that cooling helps, there is little reason not to. But ice cubes or ice packs should not be placed directly on your skin because this could lead to a cold burn.
According to studies, compression bandages can help in the healing process. Compression bandages are elastic bandages that are wrapped around the foot, from the tips of the toes to above the ankle, to apply gentle pressure. This is best done by a medical professional, to make sure it isn’t too loose or too tight.
What Are The Treatment Options For Ankle Sprains
If someone sprains their ankle, the ankle is first immobilized for a while using an ankle brace or bandage. But it’s usually possible to start doing rehabilitation exercises quite early on. Painkillers can be used to relieve pain. Surgery is only rarely needed.
Sometimes one awkward step is all it takes for your foot to twist sideways, resulting in an ankle sprain. This is an injury where the ligaments around the ankle are overstretched or torn. Severe sprains can make the ankle joint chronically unstable.
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Different Types Of Ankle Sprains
Ligaments are thick pieces of connective tissue that connect bone to bone. Ligaments provide important stability for the ankle. Ligaments can be overstretched or torn. These injuries are called sprains. There are three types of ankle sprains
Grade 1 Sprain
A Grade 1 sprain involves the least amount of ligament injury. Ligaments are typically overstretched without tearing. Symptoms involve mild swelling and tenderness with no functional loss or instability . Go our blog, How to Treat Ankle Sprains, to learn more.
Grade 2 Sprain
These sprains are more severe than Grade 1. Ligaments are partially torn. Symptoms include moderate pain, swelling, tenderness, restricted range of motion, and joint instability. Read: Sprained Ankle: When Do You Need Surgery? for more information.
Grade 3 Sprain
This is the most severe injury and involves a complete tear of the ligament. Symptoms include marked swelling, bruising, and tenderness. There is severe loss of function with most patients being unable to bear weight. The ankle joint in a Grade 3 sprain is misaligned and unstable.
How Is An Ankle Sprain Diagnosed
Your doctor can diagnose an ankle sprain. He or she will examine your ankle and ask about your symptoms and activity. The doctor may take an X-ray to confirm your ankle isnt broken or fractured. Once they diagnose the sprain, your doctor will determine the grade. This will determine the type of treatment you receive. If your ankle doesnt get better, your doctor may request an MRI. This is a type of image that allows him or her to see the ligaments inside your ankle.
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When To See Your Doctor
Unless your symptoms are mild or improving soon after the injury, contact your clinician. He or she may want to see you immediately if your pain and swelling are severe, or if the ankle feels numb or won’t bear weight. He or she will examine the ankle and foot and may manipulate them in various ways to determine the type of sprain and the extent of injury. This examination may be delayed for a few days until swelling and pain improve in the meantime, continue with the RICE regimen.
X-rays aren’t routinely used to evaluate ankle injuries. Ligament problems are the source of most ankle pain, and ligaments don’t show up on regular x-rays. To screen for fracture, clinicians use a set of rules called the Ottawa ankle rules, after the Canadian team that developed them to identify areas of the foot where pain, tenderness, and inability to bear weight suggest a fracture. A review of studies involving more than 15,000 patients concluded that the Ottawa rules identified patients with ankle fractures more than 95% of the time.
How Gohealth Urgent Care Can Help
See a medical professional if you experience the following:
- Severe or uncontrolled pain, in spite of over-the-counter medications, elevation, and ice.
- You cannot walk without severe pain.
- Your injury doesnt improve within five to seven days.
Its advisable to visit your local GoHealth Urgent Care one to two weeks after a sprain to get help with flexibility and strengthening exercises.
Managing sprain injuries properly can help them heal and get you back to normal activity faster.
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Sprained Ankle Recovery Time And What Affects It
Sprained ankle recovery time varies from case to case. If you are dealing with a normal sprained ankle, you shouldnt have to wait too long until youre healthy again. However, if youve done significant damage to the ankle, you could be resting it for a while. Heres a breakdown of what sprained ankle recovery time looks like, and what you should expect if you sprain your ankle.
Infographic Excerpt: The Rice Method For Ankle Sprain
While the exercises mentioned here can help restore your ankles range of motion, strength, and flexibility, it is important not to overdo them and let the sprain heal at its own pace. Attending to the sprain immediately with the RICE method can help accelerate the healing process. Check the infographic to learn how.
Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team
Exercises for a sprained ankle help rehabilitate this joint. However, you must not do the exercises listed above immediately after spraining your ankle. Instead, wait for the swelling to subside and get a go-ahead from the doctor for rehabilitation. Moreover, do not walk until the pain reduces. Otherwise, you may worsen your injury. The waiting period before the exercise differs depending on the extent of the injury, so consult a doctor immediately for an examination. When you are cleared for the exercises that help strengthen the ankle and foot muscles, ligaments, and tendons, do not do them without warming up first. Ideally, you will be able to walk without pain within 4-6 weeks.
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Physiotherapy For A Sprained Ankle
You dont always need physiotherapy for a sprained ankle. But if your sprain is very bad or isnt getting better after a week or so, you may benefit from seeing a physiotherapist. You can often book an appointment with a physiotherapist directly, without needing to see your GP. This is known as self-referral. Ask at your GP surgery to see whether or not this is available in your area.
A physiotherapist can develop a formal exercise programme for you which will involve co-ordination exercises and balance training. It will aim to build your strength and mobility while getting back the full range of movement in your ankle. Having strong ankle muscles and joints may mean youre less likely to sprain your ankle again. Its important to stick to the exercise plan your physiotherapist recommends. This will help to make sure your ankle is back to full strength before you return to any sports or high impact activities.
Sprained Ankle Risk Factors
Certain people are more likely to sprain their ankles. Women, children, and teenagers tend to have more sprains. You might also be at higher risk if you:
- Play sports, especially on an indoor court
- Have balance problems
- Wear high heels or shoes that donât fit well
- Have weak or stiff ankles, such as because of a previous injury
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How Long Should It Take To Heal From A Sprained Ankle
There is no single answer to this question because how long it should take to heal from a sprained ankle depends on a number of factors. The severity of the injury, how much rest you get after the injury, the treatment approaches you take, and your overall health may influence how fast the healing process goes. In general, healing times are as follows:
- Mild sprains: 1-2 weeks
- Moderate sprains: 4-6 weeks
- Severe sprains: 8-12 weeks6
In some cases, a severe sprain may require surgery or physical therapy to fully support recovery.
How To Treat A Sprained Ankle
The first goal is to decrease pain and swelling and protect the ligaments from further injury. This usually means adopting the classic RICE regimen rest, ice, compression, and elevation. If you have severe pain and swelling, rest your ankle as much as possible for the first 2448 hours. During that time, immerse your foot and ankle in cold water, or apply an ice pack for 1520 minutes three times a day, or until the swelling starts to subside.
To reduce swelling, compress the ankle with an elasticized wrap, such as an ACE bandage or elastic ankle sleeve. When seated, elevate your ankle as high as you comfortably can to the height of your hip, if possible. In the first 24 hours, avoid anything that might increase swelling, such as hot showers, hot packs, or heat rubs.
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Surgery For A Sprained Ankle
Its very unlikely youll need to have surgery for a sprained ankle. But if your ankle is badly sprained or isnt getting any better, your GP may refer you to an orthopaedic surgeon for assessment. They will advise whether or not surgery may be beneficial for you. Youre more likely to need surgery if you play sports or are an athlete at a professional level.
What Are Some Home Remedies For A Sprained Ankle
Many home remedies can help reduce pain and swelling from a sprained ankle.
When you are injured, it is important to care for the injury properly to ensure that it heals correctly. One way to do this is with the RICE method, which stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
This method can help reduce pain and swelling and also prevent further injury.
To use the RICE method, first, rest the injured area to allow your body to heal. Then apply ice to reduce swelling and numb the area. Next, compress the area with a bandage or wrap to immobilize it and prevent further injury. Finally, elevate the area above your heart to reduce swelling. Following these steps can help your injury heal properly and prevent further damage.
Garlic may also be effective in reducing pain and boosting the immune system. Essential oils can also be used to help reduce inflammation and increase healing.
Most minor ankle sprains will improve with rest, ice, and over-the-counter pain relievers. However, if the pain does not improve or you experience severe swelling, it is important to see your doctor for further treatment.
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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.
Can I Walk If I Have A Sprained Ankle
No, not until the pain subsides. Walking may seem to be a low-impact exercise and harmless. However, it can worsen the inflammation if you start walking before the ankle recovers from the injury.
If the ankle is a grade 1 sprain, walking is typically started right away grade 2 usually takes within 3-5 days, and grade 3 ankle sprains can be more prolonged, depending on the severity of the swelling, confirms board-certified orthopedic surgeon Dr. Mark Slabaugh.
Stephanie Niño, PT, DPT, says, Depending on the severity of the ankle sprain, patients are typically advised to avoid strenuous activity during the treatment and recovery period, as there is a high occurrence of re-injury or the development of chronic problems. She advises avoiding walking if you are unable to bear the body weight. Sports chiropractor Brett Edmunds urges, Use crutches when you need to walk on your sprained ankle and wear ankle braces.
Apart from letting the swelling or inflammation go down, you must take a few safety precautions to prevent falls and further aggravating the injury. Scroll down to get expert insights.
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When To Start Exercises For Ankle Sprains
Most people can start ankle rehabilitation exercises within three days after the ankle injury, if its not too severe. But theres no set timetable. Listen to your own body, and follow your doctors advice.
For the first few days, youll need to rest and apply an ice pack to your injured ankle for 10 to 15 minutes every few hours. Dont let the ice touch your skin and dont leave it on so long that it burns you.
For many people, the rest period is about three days. After that, you can gradually increase the use of your ankle and begin a program of home exercises or physical therapy.
For non-athletes, doctor-prescribed home exercises alone may be just as good as a supervised exercise program. A 2007 study of 102 people who had sprained ankles showed no major difference to recovery after one year from a supervised exercise program compared to standard care with unsupervised home exercises.
Discuss rehabilitation exercises with your doctor and do your own research to help you decide which treatment is best for you.
How Long Should You Stay Off A Sprained Ankle
If you have a sprained ankle, it is important to take the proper steps to ensure that it heals correctly. This means resting for one or two days and using ice to reduce swelling. Depending on the severity of the injury, healing can take anywhere from 3 to 6 months. However, if you follow the RICE protocol and take other measures to care for your ankle, you can expect to resume normal activity within 4-6 weeks.
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Living With A Sprained Ankle
Ankle sprains are common problems, but they do heal. However, depending on the grade of your sprain, you may not be able to return to normal activities right away. Your doctor can provide a time frame for your situation. Once you return to regular activities, you still may need to wear an ankle brace or bandage for support and protection.
Your doctor or physical therapist may provide a list of ankle exercises for you to do. This will help strengthen your muscles. He or she will tell you when to start the exercises and how long to do them. Depending on the severity of the sprain, you may need to do them for several weeks. Its important you do the exercises for the amount of time your doctor says. This will help prevent future sprains.