08 Jul How long for an ankle sprain to fully heal?
Recovery from a Sprained Ankle
A sprained ankle is one of the most common lower-body injuries. Ankle sprains are 40% of all ankle injuries and about half of all sports injuries.
A sprained ankle happens when you pull or tear a ligament. It is painful, but a full recovery is possible.
How Long Does It Take to Recover from an Ankle Sprain?
The length of recovery depends on the type or grade of sprain you have. There are three types of an ankle sprain.
Grade 1: Mild or Minimal
- The pain is mild, and you can still walk.
- The ligament is stretched but not torn.
- Recovery takes 2 to 4 weeks.
Grade 2: Moderate
- You may have tenderness, swelling and bruising.
- The ligament is torn, and walking is very difficult.
- Recovery takes 6 to 8 weeks.
Grade 3: Severe
- The pain is intense, and you can’t put weight on your foot.
- The ligament is completely torn, and your ankle feels wobbly.
- Recovery takes 12 weeks to 6 months.
First Aid for an Ankle Sprain
You should always consult a doctor when you have a sprained ankle. In the meantime, follow the RICE method to get relief until you can see one.
- R: Rest the ankle completely. Do not put any weight on it.
- I: Use ice packs to numb the pain and reduce swelling. Apply a pack for 20 minutes every 3 to 4 hours.
- C: Compression helps prevent swelling. Wrap the injured ankle in an elastic or medical bandage.
- E: Elevate the ankle as much as possible. Try to raise it above the level of your heart.
Only a foot care specialist can diagnose a sprained ankle. Your doctor may use an X-ray, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or ultrasound to determine whether you have a sprained ligament.
Treatment of an ankle sprain typically includes:
- Compression with medical bandages.
- Crutches, walking boots and other devices to help you walk.
- Prescription pain medications.
- Sports tapes or braces to keep the ankle stable.
Surgery is rarely necessary for an ankle sprain.
Home Care for a Sprained Ankle
Once you’ve received medical treatment, follow these steps to help your recovery.
- Avoid strenuous movements that could further weaken the ligament.
- Continue using ice packs if the ankle swells or feels hot to the touch.
- Ask a podiatrist to check your foot biomechanics. An arch that’s too high or low can cause ankle stability. Your doctor may recommend a custom orthotic or other treatment.
Physical therapy is critical for a sprained ankle. Studies have found that 40% of ankle sprains are recurrent. Many people experience long-term bouts of pain, even years after recovering from a sprain. Recurrent symptoms can lead to ankle instability and osteoarthritis.
Physical therapy can prevent these problems by ensuring the ankle heals properly and returns to full function. Exercises that focus on range of motion, balance, and flexibility are key to recovery.
Get Help for All Your Ankle Troubles
Don’t let an ankle sprain throw you off track. With the right care and treatment, you can get back to your favorite sports and other activities. At Shuman Podiatry & Sports Medicine, we can help you make a full recovery after an ankle sprain.