What is the Normal Sprained Ankle Recovery Time?
The expected length of time for a sprained ankle to heal will depend on the severity of the sprain. Once your doctor determines what “grade” your ankle injury falls into, you’ll have a better sense of what sprained ankle recovery time you can expect. You’ll also learn what your treatment will entail.
Levels of Severity
Medically speaking, the term “sprained ankles” describes injuries to ankle joint ligaments. How extensive the damage to those ligaments is will determine whether it’s classified as mild, moderate, or severe. In turn, you’ll have a better sense of your expected recovery time.
With a Grade 1 sprain, your ligament has likely just been overly stretched, perhaps with a tiny tear. Your symptoms would include a bit of swelling, some trouble keeping your balance when walking, and some soreness.
You can expect significant improvement for a Grade 1 ankle sprain by about two weeks. It might take up to four weeks to return to your sport. That’s when full mobility tends to be regained.
Injuries to the ligaments are more serious with a Grade 2 sprained ankle. There will be a partial ligament tear, resulting in bruising, trouble walking, and moderate pain.
Grade 2 ankle sprains take about six to eight weeks before you retain full mobility. Much of that has to do with scar tissue formation, which takes at least six weeks to properly form and become remolded.
Ligaments can fully tear with a Grade 3 sprained ankle. Initially, it will be almost impossible to walk without a crutch or cane, or at least a specialized immobility boot. Most people with a Grade 3 sprained ankle will have significant swelling throughout the foot and ankle region. Pain can also be severe.
Unfortunately, 12 weeks is the minimum time of healing after a Grade 3 sprain. If surgery has been required to repair a ruptured ligament or a fracture, you can expect six months of recovery before you are fully mobile and able to return to a sport.
Stages of Treatment
Obviously how many stages of treatment you need to undertake for a sprained ankle will depend on its severity. In general, you can expect to need at least some of these treatments, which are listed in chronological order:
- RICE. Rest, icing, compression and elevation for up to three days.
- Regaining range of motion. A doctor or physical therapy can teach you about gentle stretches to prevent stiffening up as you heal.
- Building strength. Gradually, you’ll take on more resistance exercises to strengthen the ankle, foot, and calf.
- Foot/ankle assessment. A physical therapist may need to assess whether your foot biometrics, such as your natural foot arch, may need to be helped with shoe inserts.
- Physical therapy. Especially if you’re an athlete, you’ll need specialized exercises that help improve speed and agility, among other attributes.
- Post-return aid. If you return to a sport, you may need ongoing assessment to see how your ankle is holding up. Physical therapy may also involve injury-prevention strengthening moves.
Don’t Ignore That Injured Ankle!
It goes without saying that your recovery time will be decreased if you get the treatment you need. From those first hours after you’ve sprained your ankle, to the sport-exercises that propel you back into the game, following the right protocol will ensure a quicker recovery. The dedicated team at BackFit Health + Spine is here to guide you every step of the way.