Ankle sprain recovery time depends upon many factors like the grade of the injury, physical fitness of the person, the rehabilitation measures that are undertaken by him etc. Let us discuss everything about the factors influencing ankle sprain recovery time in this article.
There are more than 20,000 people who sprain their ankles every day. So, it’s really important for us to know how long does it take to recover from sprained ankle.
Ankle sprain or sprained ankle is amongst the most common injuries occurring in sportspersons.
But, there is a lack of awareness about the ankle sprains amongst the people and also the family practitioners to some extent.
Ankle sprain recovery time and the extent of recovery is greatly influenced by the initial workup and the rehabilitation measures taken. Your doctor should guide you properly regarding this.
But, if due to any reason initial workup and the measures that were taken are not adequate, your sprained ankle might not recover fast enough. You might suffer from a debilitating problem and you might even need to take the help of surgery to correct your problem.
There are many reasons for developing an ankle sprain and it’s generally due to sudden twisting of the ankle in an abnormal position. You might sprain your ankle if you twist it outside when pointing your feet up. You can also develop ankle sprain if you twist your ankle inwards while pointing your feet down.
Do you know how to suspect if you have developed ankle sprain? If you twisted your ankle suddenly in an awkward position and then you developed swelling and bruising over the ankle joint, you can suspect ankle sprain.
An ankle sprain will also cause severe tenderness over the ankle joint or your joint feels painful to touch. Your physician might order an X-ray to rule out fractures, and the X-ray turns out to be negative.
Ankle sprain recovery time-Depends on Grade of Injury:
As we already discussed there are many factors which influence the ankle sprain recovery time. But, the most important factors which influence the ankle sprain recovery time are the Grades or the severity of the ankle sprain. There are three main grades of ankle sprain or sprained ankle based on the severity of the injury. Let us explore them.
The grade of ankle sprain is also based on the extent of damage occurring to the ligaments. The ligament is a structure which connects two bones together. It is elastic and it prevents the abnormal movements of the bones and holds them together.
But, sometimes ligaments can get stretched or torn due to sudden movements of the joints. This influences the grade of the ankle sprain.
Grade 1 ankle sprain (Mild):
- In Grade 1 ankle sprain there is minimal damage to the ankle joint and the ligaments.
- There is mild stretching of the ankle ligaments.
- Also, there is small tear microscopically in the ligament fibers. But, the tear in the ligament is not visible outside.
- There is some degree of swelling and bruising over the ankle joint.
- You might experience ankle pain, but it is not so excruciating. Also, there is mild tenderness over the ankle joint.
- The stability of the ankle joint is affected very significantly. In other words, there is no joint instability.
- In Grade 1 injury, you can walk with slight pain but won’t need the help of any crutches.
- But, you won’t be able to jump or jog or do any activity involving more movement of the ankle joint.
The ankle sprain recovery time for grade 1 injuries is very minimal. You can recover in a span of 1 to 2 weeks (7 to 10 days) if you follow the proper advice of your physician and don’t hurt your ankle further.
Grade 2 sprained ankle (Moderate):
- In Grade 2 ankle sprain, there is a slight tear in the ligament, in contrast to the microscopic tear of the Grade 1 injury.
- There is more swelling and bruising in comparison to Grade 1 injuries.
- Also, there can be bleeding under the skin in the ankle joint due to the tear of the ligament.
- There is joint instability or laxity in the ankle joint. When your physician examines the ankle joint, he feels that it is very loose due to the tear.
- There is more pain in Grade 2 ankle sprain as the tear is moderate. You will also experience tenderness when touching or press over the ankle joint.
- If you have Grade 2 ankle sprain, even walking seems to be a difficult task and walking exacerbates the pain.
In comparison to the Grade 1 ankle sprain, Garde 2 ankle sprains take more time to recover. The recovery time for grade 2 ankle sprain is about 1 to 2 months (4 to 8 weeks). If you see that any person has not recovered from the ankle sprain for about a month, then he or she has grade 2 ankle sprain.
Grade 3 ankle sprain (Severe):
- Grade 3 ankle sprain is very severe in comparison o the other two types of ankle sprains.
- The ligament is completely torn or ruptured in the grade 3 sprained ankle.
- As the ligament is torn completely, your joint becomes very loose or has severe joint laxity or joint instability. Your physician feels that your joint is just giving out while examining it.
- There is extensive bruising and swelling over the ankle joint.
- The pain caused by Grade 3 ankle sprain is very excruciating. You can’t tolerate the pain without the help of analgesics.
- There is severe tenderness or pain when trying to touch or press over the ankle joint.
- You cannot walk at all with grade 3 ankle sprain.
The Grade 3 ankle sprain recovery time is about 3 to 6 months. You also need to follow all the guidelines of your doctor and physiotherapist to recover within 6 months. You won’t be able to return to sports within 6 months.
Measures to take to reduce the ankle sprain recovery time:
We all want to shorten the ankle sprain recovery time. Who wants to have constraints in moving, walking and doing sporting activities? Anyone in the whole world doesn’t like it, right. Let us look at all the measures that you can take to reduce the sprained ankle recovery time.
Initially, your physician might order you to get an X-ray done to rule out fracture of the ankle joint, as the fracture can also produce symptoms similar to that of an ankle sprain. Then he will advise you to follow all the below measures.
1. Initial management to protect the ankle joint:
It is really imperative to avoid damaging the ankle joint further to shorten the sprained ankle recovery time. Avoid doing any exercise of the ankle joint as it can aggravate the problem. You also need protective shoes to avoid any further insults to the ankle joint. You also need to follow the RICE regimen to protect your joint.
Avoid doing any activity that involves the motion of the ankle joint. You need to be non-weight bearing for some days to reduce the sprained ankle recovery time.
You might need to take the help of crutches while walking to avoid weight bearing. You can also take the help of ankle braces. They also help in reducing the swelling and pain.
Applying Ice or cold compress is an essential step to reduce the swelling, bruising and pain during the initial phases. Just take a few ice cubes and place them in a cloth and apply it over the ankle joint. Never apply ice over the skin directly.
You need to apply this cold compress for about 15 minutes. Then take a break and apply it again after 4 to 5 hours. You need to do this at least 5 times a day for 15 to 20 minutes each.
You need to you an elastic compression stocking or elastic bandage to cover the ankle joint. This compression bandage reduces the swelling and helps you to shorten the sprained ankle recovery time too.
Elevation of the ankle is absolutely important to reduce the swelling. Elevation of the leg reduces the blood flow or blood supply to the ankle and leg. This helps in reducing the swelling and bruising. Place 2 pillows under your leg to elevate it.
You might need to take Acetaminophen or paracetamol to reduce the pain caused by sprained ankle. NSAIDS or Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aceclofenac, ibuprofen are more effective than paracetamol in controlling the pain and swelling.
But, it is generally advised to avoid taking these drugs during the initial 2 to 3 days when there is a risk of bleeding as these drugs can aggravate bleeding due to their antiplatelet action.
In addition o the RICE regimen, grade 2 ankle sprain might need splinting of the ankle joint. Grade 3 ankle sprain might need a short leg cast. Sometimes, your physician might even suggest surgery for Grade 3 ankle sprain when the ligament is very badly injured.
2. Restoring the motion of the ankle joint:
With time and proper rest, your ligaments will heal properly. Scar tissue will form that will help in repairing the damaged ligaments. Formation of proper scar tissue takes at least 1.5 to 2 months.
Having strong scar tissue is essential to prevent the tear of the ankle joint ligaments again. So, you need to massage your ankle joint with sesame oil to strengthen the joint and the ligaments. You also need to do the exercises that your physiotherapist has suggested to get back full range of motion.
3. Strengthening muscles:
After you are able to bear weight and walk with minimal pain, your physiotherapist will suggest exercises that strengthen the muscles and tendons of the ankle and leg.
These exercises might include toe exercises like toe raising. You can also do water based ankle exercises after your physiotherapist advice.
4. Foot Biomechanics will be assessed and normalized:
Foot biomechanics play a vital role in causing ankle sprains. If you are a person with a flat foot or high arched foot, you are prone to develop sprained ankle very easily. This also prolongs the ankle sprain recovery time.
So, your physiotherapist will assess the foot biomechanics you have and try to normalize the. You might need foot orthotics sometimes for this purpose.
5. Restoring Proprioception:
Proprioception is the ability to balance yr body properly. Having poor proprioception leads to ankle sprains and other foot injuries. You need to do exercises to improve your proprioception or balancing abilities.
Your physiotherapist will suggest exercises like standing on one foot (mostly the affected foot), raising the other foot and balancing your foot.
6. Strength and agility training:
You will need to do exercises that increase the strength, endurance and agility of the calf and leg muscles and also the ankle joint ligaments. Your physiotherapist will suggest you exercises like running in a 8 figure manner, etc to increase the agility.
7. Returning to sports:
Your physiotherapist might suggest you some particular set of exercise after your ankle joints and ligaments have fully healed. You need to be fully aware of the ankle sprain recovery time. You need to do these exercises only after complete recovery from sprained ankle.
You need to gradually increase the motion of the ankle joint, do the exercises suggested by your physiotherapist.
If you properly follow your doctors and physiotherapists advice, do exercises, have patience and avoid further damage to the ankle joint and ligaments, your ankle sprain recovery time will be reduced and you will recover completely and can return to sports.