A sprained ankle can be painful and debilitating, but luckily your recovery time will usually be short — especially if you take steps to protect your ankle as it heals!
Joint sprains are a remarkably common part of life for both athletes and non-athletes alike. With their complex network of ligaments holding them together, ankles are especially vulnerable to sprains. Simply landing awkwardly on your foot can stretch or possibly tear those ligaments, resulting in pain, swelling, tenderness, and a limited range of motion in the joint.
In addition to the pain and discomfort ankle sprains bring, they can also restrict your mobility for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks since you won’t be able to put much pressure on the joint following an injury. Fortunately, most ankle sprains heal quickly with proper self-care, meaning you won’t be off your feet for too long. But if you aren’t careful, you can injure your ankle further, leading to a longer healing process and potentially even a need for medical intervention.
Here’s a look at what to do as you recover from an ankle sprain to ensure a quick and easy recovery.
How Long Will it Take for Your Ankle Sprain to Heal
Your recovery time depends on the severity of the sprain. A minor sprain clears in about two weeks, while a Grade I or II sprain typically takes between four and eight weeks to heal. A more serious Grade III sprain could require three to six months before it’s completely healed. To speed up the healing process, follow the PRICE method as outlined here:
- Protect the ankle. The first step to healing is to protect the ankle from more trauma. To do that, you may need to tape the ankle, wear a protective boot, or walk on crutches to reduce pressure on the joint.
- Rest. Make sure to treat your ankle with care and rest for at least a few days after your injury! Avoid activities that could further strain the ankle, whether that’s sporting activities or simply working around the house.
- Ice. Apply an ice pack to the affected joint several times a day. Make sure to wrap your ice pack and keep it on your ankle for 20 minutes at a time maximum. The cold will reduce the swelling and pain.
- Compression. Tightly wrapping tape around the ankle will provide stability and prevent further damage as your ankle heals. You can also use an ankle brace or cast for compression if necessary.
- Elevation. To drain fluids from the ankle and reduce swelling, try raising your ankle above the level of your heart.
If you are looking for pain relief as your ankle heals, try over-the-counter medications.
For more severe sprains, you may also want to look into physical therapy to strengthen the joint and increase mobility. Surgery is rarely recommended for ankle sprains, except in the case of a significant ligament tear that doesn’t respond to conservative treatments.
Preventing Ankle Sprains
Ankle sprains are often painful and debilitating — at least for a short period of time. Even better than having an ankle sprain heal fast is preventing the sprain in the first place. Here are five ways to keep your ankle strong and less prone to sprains:
Practice Balancing Exercises. Proper balance can keep you from falling and injuring your ankle. To improve balance, stand on one leg as you do simple everyday tasks, such as brushing your teeth or washing dishes, or even when you’re exercising your upper body. Make sure to switch and do these exercises for each leg.
Tape Your Ankle Before You Play. Playing football, basketball, or any other sport that involves running can sometimes wrench your ankle out of position, causing a sprain. Before the game, tape your ankle to give it the extra support it needs.
Strengthen & Stretch Your Ankle Muscles. If your ankle muscles are weak, they’re more likely to sprain. Strengthening exercises designed to build up the muscles can keep them strong and better able to withstand an injury. To increase flexibility, stretch your ankle muscles before you exercise.
Know Your Surroundings. Many ankle sprains occur because people are unaware of the terrain and take a tumble. Look around and see if there are any uneven or slippery surfaces and walk gingerly to protect your ankle.
Get the Proper Footwear. When playing a sport, proper footwear is essential in order to maintain your balance and protect your ankle. You want a shoe that supports your ankle while also providing good mobility. Ask a trainer or orthopedist for recommendations. And save high heels for special occasions only. Tottering on high heels can easily make you trip and fall and hurt your ankle.
Talk to the Ankle Specialists
Are you worried about an ankle sprain that isn’t healing? At New York Bone & Joint Specialists, we have a team of physicians who specialize in ankle injuries and other orthopedic conditions ready to help you get back on your feet. Whether that means surgery, physical therapy, or more of the PRICE method, our experts can help you feel your best fast. Contact us today for more information.