Sprained Ankle: Symptoms, Treatment, & Recovery Time

A sprained ankle is a stretching or rupture of the ligaments in the ankle. A common injury among serious athletes and more casual exercisers alike, ankle sprains can result in symptoms ranging from slight discomfort to an inability to bear weight on the affected joint.

A sprained ankle can fall into one of three grades of severity, each of which comes with its own distinct set of symptoms. Regardless of the severity of the sprain, however, most patients can make a complete recovery by simply resting the ankle and following a plan of recovery outlined by their orthopedic specialist.


Most patients with sprained ankles report many of the same symptoms, including:

  • A mild to severe pain that worsens when placing weight on the foot
  • Swelling and bruising around the site of the sprain
  • A limited range of motion in the foot and ankle
  • A sudden popping sound (in the event of a severe sprain)

As mentioned above, symptoms of a sprained ankle vary with the severity of the sprain. A grade I sprain, for example, entails minor stretching or tearing of the ligaments, while a grade II sprain entails an incomplete tear of the ligaments and a slight looseness when moving the ankle. Meanwhile, a grade III sprain results in a complete rupture of the ligaments and significant instability in the ankle.


Since the severity of ankle sprains can vary so widely, treatments can also differ significantly from patient to patient. In most cases, however, ankle sprains respond best to a non-invasive course of treatment centered around rest and rehabilitation.

The most effective methods include:

  • Resting the ankle by bearing as little weight as possible on it
  • Regularly icing the ankle
  • Compressing the ankle with an appropriate brace
  • Elevating the foot whenever sitting

These conservative measures are ideal solutions to grade I and II sprains. Patients with Grade III sprains, however, should complement these strategies with a physical therapy program designed to gradually restore the ankle’s strength and flexibility and minimize the risk of lasting complications.



We recommend that patients begin to rehabilitate an ankle sprain as soon as they sustain the injury. For the first several days, use the ankle as little as possible, ice it at least eight times a day, and wear a compression wrap or brace. As soon as you can stand without pain, you should begin to practice some gentle stretching or strengthening exercises under the supervision of an orthopedic specialist or physical therapist. Continue to practice these exercises until any pain, swelling, and stiffness subside.

Recovery Time

Recovery timelines for sprained ankles are generally short. Patients with minor sprains may recover completely in as little as two weeks, but most patients with a grade I or II sprain will take in the range of four to eight weeks to heal. Patients with a grade III sprain will require three to six months of rest and rehabilitation to recover.

If you’re struggling with a sprained ankle, the specialists at New York Bone & Joint can help. Our orthopedic surgeons, Rupesh Tarwala, MD and resident podiatrist Dr. Christine Ellie, are leading experts on foot and ankle conditions, capable of quickly diagnosing common podiatric injuries and developing personalized treatment plans that help patients return to action as quickly as possible. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

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