Heal a sprained ankle

Contents

Recovering from an ankle sprain

Updated: April 19, 2019Published: February, 2007

All it takes is a simple misstep, and suddenly you have a sprained ankle. An ankle sprain is one of the most common musculoskeletal injuries in people of all ages, athletes and couch potatoes alike. The injury occurs when one or more of the ligaments in the ankle are stretched or torn, causing pain, swelling, and difficulty walking. Many people try to tough out ankle injuries and don’t seek medical attention. But if an ankle sprain causes more than slight pain and swelling, it’s important to see a clinician. Without proper treatment and rehabilitation, a severely injured ankle may not heal well and could lose its range of motion and stability, resulting in recurrent sprains and more downtime in the future.

Anatomy of an ankle sprain

The most common type of ankle sprain is an inversion injury, or lateral ankle sprain. The foot rolls inward, damaging the ligaments of the outer ankle — the anterior talofibular ligament, the calcaneofibular ligament, and the posterior talofibular ligament. (Ligaments are bands of fibrous tissue that connect bone to bone; see illustration.)

To continue reading this article, you must login.

Subscribe to Harvard Health Online for immediate access to health news and information from Harvard Medical School.

  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor’s visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise

Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online “

Treating a Sprained Ankle: Everything You Need to Know

Maybe you were getting really into a new class at your gym. Or maybe you simply stepped awkwardly off the curb. No matter how it happened, your ankle is now painful and swollen, showing every sign of being sprained.

See All About Ankle Sprains and Strains

Save

Bandaging a sprained ankle helps stabilize the joint to tissues can heal.
Read: Ankle Sprain and Strain Treatment Options

What you do in the first few hours and days after a sprain can help you lessen the pain and heal more quickly, so brush up on these ankle sprain care tips.

advertisement

The first 24 to 72 hours

Ankle sprains are very common injuries that can affect anyone—from professional athletes to those with limited mobility, from children to adults. They occur when the ligaments that support the ankle go beyond their normal range of motion and become stretched or torn.

See Ankle Sprain and Strain Risk Factors

If you suspect you may have sprained your ankle, the first step is to check for the symptoms of a sprain:

  • Sudden, sharp pain that forces you to immediately stop moving or take weight off the ankle
  • Pain that’s located on the spot of the injured ligament (for example, on the inside of your ankle)
  • Swelling or bruising at the site of the sprain
  • Limited or no ability to move the ankle a certain way or stand on it
  • See a complete list of symptoms

Next, you should follow the tried-and-true treatment protocol of R.I.C.E: rest, ice, compression, and elevation.

    Rest: Avoid activities that actively cause pain in your ankle. However, you still want to promote faster healing by doing simple range-of-motion stretches or isometric moves with the ankle—as long as they don’t cause pain.

    Ice: Treating a sprain with ice can reduce pain and swelling. When you ice your ankle, make sure you use a cloth barrier between the ice and your skin and limit icing session to 10 to 15 minutes every 1 to 2 hours.

    Compression: An elastic bandage can bring down swelling and stabilize the joint. Wrap it snugly, but not so tight that it causes numbness or tingling. And remove or significantly loosen it when you go to bed at night.

    Elevation: By keeping your ankle elevated above the level of your heart, you can help reduce swelling and pain. Prop up your leg during the day, and put a pillow beneath your ankle in bed at night.

You can also relieve pain by using topical creams or taking acetaminophen (Tylenol) or NSAIDs such as ibuprofen or naproxen (Aleve).

advertisement

After 2 to 3 days

After a few days of using the R.I.C.E. protocol, a mild sprain will be mostly healed and ready for you to resume normal activity. A moderate or severe sprain may require you to keep up these treatment steps for longer—up to several weeks.

When to get help for a sprained ankle

Someone with a sprained ankle should go to the ER right away if it any of the following occurs:

  • The joint appears deformed
  • The injured person is pale or has an unsteady pulse
  • The injured person experiences paralysis, tingling, or extreme pain

You may also need to see your doctor or a specialized sports medicine doctor if you have a severe sprain and/or your symptoms persist despite practicing R.I.C.E. at home.

See Acute Injury: Additional Treatment Considerations

Learn more

Ankle Anatomy: Muscles and Ligaments

Common Running Injuries: Pain in the Ankle or Back of the Heel

How to Heal a Sprained Ankle Fast

Body Recovery: What Else Can You Do to Heal Besides Simply Passing the Time?

We provide various ways you can help your body speed up its own healing process, use the PRICE program and how prevent from happening again.

The human body is a highly-proficient, fine-tuned machine, operating thousands of functions a day without fail.

However, as with anything that endures constant use and abuse, your body is bound to fall victim to a sprain or injury once in a while.

While many swear by the passage of time as the best method for recovery, there are various ways you can help your body speed up its own healing process.

(That’s not to say you should try and overexert yourself too soon, however. Speak with a health professional or physical therapist about your personal treatment before attempting to exercise or train again).

How to Heal a Sprained Ankle Fast

Even for seemingly minor sprains or pulled muscles, it’s always best to consult a physician or health expert before getting back into your regular exercise routine.

Though your injury may be common, they don’t always result in the same impact to your body.

For instance, studies show that among adults who exercise regularly, 21 percent have at some point or another developed an exercise-related injury over the time period of one year. And among those, two-thirds of injuries occurred in the legs, with the knee being the most-prominently overextended joint.

For this reason, something as usual as a sprained ankle may appear to be a trivial injury, easily healed over six months’ time with gentle maintenance and care.

Unfortunately, making this assumption before getting it checked could lead to greater injury in the future.

Even if you feel you’re being too overly-cautious, you’ll be happier when you don’t cause greater problems for your overworked bones and muscles.

Sprained Ankle Recovery Tips : Follow PRICE Program

Once you’ve incorporated a routine set of functional tasks into your daily recovery under the guidance of your health professional (for example: hopping on one foot to test your mobility and balance), you’ll learn just how to heal a sprained ankle fast and will be fit for exercise again.

For other tried-and-true methods of handling your injury correctly, it’s best to follow the PRICE program for self-treatment.

PRICE is an acronym referring to the following terms:

1. Protection. Protecting your injury is essential for a healthy, speedy recovery. Focus on continuously applying clean bandages, elastic wraps, or simple splints for best results.

2. Rest. The most obvious of responses. While resting and relaxing is key to healing efficiently, many refuse to spend the necessary amount of time committing to it in an effort to start exercising again. Don’t give into this temptation, as you’ll undo the hard work you’ve already achieved if you make the injury worse. If you must be more active throughout your day, stick to walking or light exercises.

3. Ice. It’s cheap, easy and efficient for managing small injuries. Apply ice packs to keep swelling and pain to a minimum. It’s best to move forward with this treatment immediately after the injury occurs, but repeating this process multiple times a day will highly benefit your recovery time. Wrap ice in a thin cloth to keep skin from becoming too red or numb.

4. Compression. Applying pressure also aids in reducing swelling or inflammation. Wrap your bandages so they feel snug, but not tight enough to be constricting. As the swelling changes, adjustments may need to be made, so keep a strict eye on them.

5. Elevation. Reacting by elevating the injury uses the force of gravity to drain any fluid away from the injured tissue to further reduce the effects of swelling, inflammation, and pain. Prop a sore ankle on a pillow or on the arm of your couch as you lie down, effectively keeping it from ballooning too much.

Sprained Ankle Recovery: Take Greater Action to Continue Your Rehabilitation

Once the pain and swelling have calmed down over time, you may assume that further treatment is unnecessary.

However, moving back into your regular exercise routine is going to require its own readjustment. Focus on treating your injury more gently in the beginning, easing back into a normal regimen slowly as you go.

Simply begin with small, gentle range-of-motion exercises that merely get your muscles flexing and warmed up. Once you feel you’re ready, and then start to gradually increase your more intense, weight-bearing activities.

One of the most important lessons: always stretch before doing ANY activity. Prepare with ice wraps or heating pads for before and after your exercises, applying them to your injured area as needed.

After all, the last thing you want to do is overexert yourself, causing more harm or stress to your body that could lay you out for good.

Sprained Ankle Recovery Tips: Preventing Another One!

While rebuilding your fitness regimen is essential for maintaining your overall health, taking it slow and easy ensures you will prevent other injuries from occurring in the future.

Spend extra time working yourself into shape at a gradual speed. While anticipating your return to your exercise program may be exciting and motivational, overdoing it right out of the gate is ill-advised.

Recondition your body for strength and success over time, not all at once, to encourage stress prevention and help you stay in shape continuously.

Again, warming up and stretching before each session is paramount, while cooling down afterwards with light walking or yoga moves will keep you feeling strong and flexible.

Use proper equipment and wear supportive active wear and shoes for weight-bearing activities, or intense, high-velocity training.

Finally, learn how to perform proper techniques when committing to certain exercises. Get help from an experienced friend, a coach or trainer, or a legitimate source you feel can help you achieve your goals the right way.

Anyone is susceptible to causing an injury to themselves from overusing or pushing their body too hard.

Therefore, it’s crucial to give your body ample time to rest and rejuvenate after workouts, especially if you’re just starting a new fitness routine.

Most importantly, focus on learning how to recognize a real problem. Though having sore or stiff muscles is generally normal, be alert to other symptoms involving pain, swelling, or excessive fatigue and stress that feel unusual.

Exercise is certainly vital to a long, healthy life, so give yourself the ability to prolong your journey by treating your body right!

Treatment Tips for Your Sprained Ankle

How you should treat your sprained ankle depends on the severity of the injury.

Mild sprains can often be treated at home. The traditional RICE method (rest, ice, compression, elevation) was once considered tried and true. But it may not always be your quickest route to recovery.

Some experts, including Dr. Gabe Mirkin, an early advocate of RICE and credited for coining the acronym, have reevaluated the benefit of rest over exercise and the need to ice a sprained ankle.

PRICE is another acronym for a method of managing injuries like sprains and simply highlights the strategy of protecting your injured limb along with rest, ice, compression, and elevation. It advises protecting or keeping the injured area still in the first moments, hours, and day of the injury.

Shop for compression and soft ankle braces online here.

Rest or activity?

According to the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG), mild exercise may help speed recovery after resting for a period of one or two days. A position statement published by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) indicated that gentle exercise is good for blood flow and that it helps speed up healing. Exercises that strengthen muscles in the calf and ankle can be helpful for improving balance and stability, reducing the risk of reinjury.

A systematic review completed by researchers at The Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam found that immobilizing a sprained ankle with a brace for up to 10 days may help decrease swelling and pain. They also discovered that completely immobilizing an injury for more than four weeks may actually worsen symptoms and affect recovery negatively.

Start with gentle strengthening exercises. Don’t continue with any exercise that seems to aggravate your symptoms. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist about the types of exercise that might be beneficial for you.

Ice or heat?

NATA’s position statement also noted that the conventional wisdom about icing sprains isn’t based on much solid research. On the flipside, research reported in a 2012 issue of the Journal of Athletic Training didn’t find enough data to say icing a sprain has zero affect.

Every injury is different, and RICE is still widely recommended, even by NATA. If icing your sprained ankle provides relief, do it.

Use an ice pack for 15 to 20 minutes every two to three hours for the first 72 hours. This may not be appropriate for people with health conditions, such as diabetes, damage to the peripheral nervous system (peripheral neuropathy), or vascular disease.

Don’t ice your ankle for more than 20 minutes at a time. More doesn’t equal better in the case of applying ice.

Compression

Compression helps decrease swelling and provides stability to your ankle by immobilizing it. You should apply a compression bandage as soon as a sprain occurs. Wrap your ankle with an elastic bandage, such as an ACE bandage, and leave it on for 48 to 72 hours. Wrap the bandage snugly, but not tightly.

Elevation

Elevating your foot above your waist or heart reduces swelling by promoting elimination of excess fluid. Keep your foot in an elevated position as much as possible, especially in the first few days.

HOW TO CARE FOR A SPRAINED ANKLE

What should I do if I sprain my ankle?

Ankle sprains are very common injuries — some 25,000 people do it every day.​​​ Sometimes, it is an awkward moment when you lose your balance, but the pain quickly fades away and you go on your way. But the sprain could be more severe; your ankle might swell and it might hurt too much to stand on it. If it’s a severe sprain, you might have felt a “pop” when the injury happened.

A sprained ankle is an injury or tear of one or more ligaments on the outer side of your ankle​. If a sprain is not treated properly, you could h​ave long-term problems. A sprain can be difficult to differentiate from a broken bone without an X-ray. If you are unable to put weight on your foot after this type of injury, or if there is significant swelling, bruising, or deformity, you should seek medical treatment from a doctor (MD or DO). This may be your primary care physician or pediatrician, an emergency department, or a foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon​, depending on the severity of the injury.

Tell your doctor what you were doing when you sprained your ankle. He or she will examine it and may want an X-ray to make sure no bones are broken. Most ankle sprains do not require surgery, and minor sprains are best treated with a rehabilitation program similar to your sporting activities. Depending on how many ligaments are injured, your sprain will be classified as Grade 1 (mild), 2 (moderate), or 3 (severe).

Treating Your Sprained Ankle

Treating your sprained ankle properly may prevent chronic pain and looseness. For a Grade 1 (mild) sprain, follow the R.I.C.E. guidelines:

  • Rest your ankle by not walking on it. Limit weight bearing and use crutches if necessary. If there is no broken bone you are safe to put some weight on the leg. An ankle brace often helps control swelling and adds stability while the ligaments are healing.

  • Ice it to keep down the swelling. Don’t put ice directly on the skin (use a thin piece of cloth such as a pillowcase between the ice bag and the skin) and don’t ice more than 20 minutes at a time to avoid frostbite.

  • Compression can help control swelling as well as immobilize and support your injury.

  • Elevate the foot by reclining and propping it up above the waist or heart as needed.

Swelling usually goes down in a few days.

For a Grade 2 (moderate) sprain, follow the R.I.C.E. guidelines and allow more time for healing. A doctor may immobilize or splint your sprained ankle.

A Grade 3 (severe) sprain puts you at risk for permanent ankle looseness (instability). On rare occasions, surgery may be needed to repair the damage, especially in competitive athletes. For severe ankle sprains, your doctor may also consider treating you with a short leg cast for 2-3 weeks or a walking boot. People who sprain their ankle repeatedly may also need surgical repair to tighten their ligaments.

Rehabilitating Your Sprained Ankle

Every ligament injury needs rehabilitation. Otherwise, your sprained ankle might not heal completely and you might re-injure it. All ankle sprains, from mild to severe, require three phases of recovery:

  • Phase 1 includes resting, protecting, and reducing swelling of your injured ankle.

  • Phase 2 includes restoring your ankle’s flexibility, range of motion, and strength.

  • Phase 3 includes gradually returning to straight-ahead activity and doing maintenance exercises, followed later by more cutting sports such as tennis, basketball, or football.

Once you can stand on your ankle again, your doctor will prescribe exercise routines to strengthen your muscles and ligaments and increase your flexibility, balance, and coordination. Later, you may walk, jog, and run figure eights with your ankle taped or in a supportive ankle brace.

It’s important to complete the rehabilitation program because it makes it less likely that you’ll hurt the same ankle again. If you don’t complete rehabilitation, you could suffer chronic pain, looseness, and arthritis in your ankle. If your ankle still hurts, it could mean that the sprained ligament has not healed right, or that some other injury occurred.

To prevent future sprained ankles, pay attention to your body’s warning signs to slow down when you feel pain or fatigue, and stay in shape with good muscle balance, flexibility, and strength.

Tips for healing a sprained ankle fast

The following methods of home care may support faster recovery while helping to protect against further injuries.

RICE

The acronym RICE stands for: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Doctors often recommend these tactics to reduce swelling and inflammation in the days after an injury.

Rest

Resting the ankle is key for healing, and wearing a brace can help stabilize the injured area. Attempting to return to sports or other activities too quickly increases the risk of another injury.

Ice

Using an ice pack may reduce blood flow to the injury and help ease pain and swelling.

The American Academy of Family Physicians suggest applying an ice pack to the sprain for 10–20 minutes at a time. Wrap the pack in a towel before laying it against the skin.

However, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association reviewed the evidence for the use of ice on injuries in 2013. They found that, while doctors commonly recommend applying ice, there is limited evidence to support its effectiveness.

If ice does not help relieve symptoms, use other treatments instead.

Compression

Compression helps stabilize the injured joint and may reduce swelling.

Try wrapping a bandage around the injured ankle. The bandage should be snug, but not so tight that it digs into the skin, hurts, or causes numbness.

Elevation

Elevating a sprained ankle reduces the accumulation of fluid in the joint. This can ease swelling, which may also help reduce pain.

Try sleeping with the foot and ankle propped up on pillows at a level higher than the heart. When sitting or resting, use pillows or a footrest to keep the foot and ankle elevated.

Heat

Heat increases blood flow to an injury, which can speed healing. Some people also find that it helps relax tight muscles, easing pain and tension.

However, do not use heat while the ankle is still swollen, as this can increase inflammation and slow healing.

Once the swelling goes down, try applying a heat pack for 15–20 minutes at a time.

Some people find relief from alternating heat and ice packs. Only try this after the swelling is gone — not immediately after the injury.

Stretching

An injury to the ankle puts nearby muscles and other structures at risk of damage. This is especially likely if the tissues have become weak from disuse.

Stretching keeps the muscles strong and limber. It also helps more blood circulate to the area, which may help the ankle heal faster.

Gently stretch the ankle by moving it in all directions at least three times each day. Try flexing the foot forward, then backward, or rolling it clockwise, then counterclockwise.

However, it is important to avoid overextending the ankle or moving it in any direction that hurts.

Walking

The pain and swelling that immediately follow an ankle sprain may be severe. This can make it impossible for a person to put any weight on the joint.

As the swelling goes down, walking can promote healing. Start by walking short distances within the house. Then, gradually build up to longer distances as the ankle begins to heal.

However, walking may require a person to hold the injured ankle in an unusual position or twist the body to avoid putting excess weight on the joint. If this is the case, wait 1–2 days, then try again.

Exercise

Exercise can restore strength and balance, while preventing the muscles in the area from weakening. This can reduce the risk of another sprain.

After the swelling goes down and walking is comfortable, it may be a good idea to start exercising the ankle.

A person can try performing the following exercises for 10–15 minutes every other day:

  • On a low step, stand with the heels hanging backward over the edge. Drop the heels slightly, and hold the position for a few seconds. Then, elevate the heels above the toes.
  • Balance on one foot for 30–60 seconds, then switch sides, to promote equal strength in both joints.
  • Loop an elastic exercise band under the foot for gentle resistance. Move the ankle clockwise, then counterclockwise.
  • Play catch while balancing on one leg, then the other.

Massage

Massage can help ease pain while promoting blood flow to the sprained area.

If the injury is particularly severe or painful, a person should seek advice from a qualified massage therapist.

For less severe injuries, a person can try gentle massage at home. Some people find that massaging the bottom of the foot or heel provides relief. Others prefer to massage around or just above the ankle.

A person should stop massaging the area if it causes pain or worsens symptoms.

Physical therapy

Physical therapy may especially benefit anyone who experiences long-term pain following a serious sprain and anyone with a history of similar injuries.

A physical therapist will perform an exam of the person’s ankle to identify weak muscles and other issues that can cause pain and increase the risk of injury.

They will also ask about the person’s lifestyle, including any sports.

The physical therapist will use this information to create a customized exercise plan that promotes healing and eases pain.

What Are Home Remedies to Treat a Sprained Ankle?

Doctor’s Response

A sprained ankle is one of the most common orthopedic injuries. Every day, about 25,000 people in the U.S. suffer an ankle sprain. Ankle sprains occur in both athletes and those with sedentary lifestyles, and they can occur during sports or when walking to carry out daily activities.

A sprain is actually an injury to the ligaments of the ankle joint, which are elastic, band-like structures that hold the bones of the ankle joint together and prevent excess turning and twisting of the joint. In normal movement, the ligaments can stretch slightly and then retract back to their normal shape and size. A sprain results when the ligaments of the ankle have been stretched beyond their limits. In severe sprains, the ligaments may be partially or completely torn.

To diagnose a sprained ankle, your doctor may order X-rays or other imaging studies to confirm that a bone has not been broken.

Pain and swelling that result from a sprained ankle usually last for a few days, and most sprains heal in four to six weeks. The acronym RICE can be used to remember the recommended treatment for a mild sprain:

  • Rest: Do not walk on the affected foot.
  • Ice: Apply ice packs immediately after a sprain to reduce swelling. Leave ice packs on for 20-30 minutes at a time, up to four times per day.
  • Compression: Use of wrap-around elastic bandages helps stabilize the joint and reduce pain and swelling.
  • Elevation: Elevate the ankle above the level of the heart for 48 hours after a sprain.

In cases of more severe sprains, your doctor may recommend splints or casts to keep the joint better immobilized for a longer period of time. Crutches may be used if walking on the ankle is painful. Rehabilitation exercises that involve movement of the ankle are recommended to prevent future scarring and stiffness of the joint. Nonsteroidal antiinflammatory medications (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen can be taken to help control pain.

It is possible to take steps to reduce your chances of suffering a sprained ankle. Always wear good shoes, and pay attention to surfaces where you are walking or participating in sports. Be sure to warm up thoroughly before strenuous exercise, and watch out for symptoms of fatigue when exercising, as fatigue can lead to carelessness and injury. Appropriate care and treatment of a sprained ankle are very important, since an improperly treated sprain can result in permanent instability or dysfunction of the joint.

How Long Does It Take for a Sprained Ankle to Heal?

What Are the Symptoms of a Sprained Ankle?

Sprained ankle symptoms depend on the severity of the sprain and may include:

  • Pain, particularly when you put too much weight on the foot
  • Ankle is tender to the touch
  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Limited range of motion
  • Instability in the ankle
  • Redness and warmth
  • Popping sound or sensation at the time of injury

What Can Cause a Sprained Ankle?

An ankle sprain happens when the ankle is forced to move out of its natural position, causing stretched or torn ligament(s). Causes of a sprained ankle can include:

  • Twisting your ankle during a fall
  • Exercising or walking on an uneven surface
  • Someone steps or lands on your foot which can be common in sports activities
  • Pivoting or jumping then experiencing a difficult landing on your foot
  • Shoes that don’t fit properly or high-heeled shoes. Both can make your ankles more vulnerable to injury.

How Long Does It Take to Recover from a Sprained Ankle?

Recovery time from a sprained ankle will depend on the severity of the sprain. Most ankle sprains are mild and only need ice and elevation. Mild sprains typically begin to feel better in a few days to a week and heal by six weeks.

More severe ankle sprains could take more than a few weeks or months to fully recover. Severe sprains may cause excruciating pain, crutches may be needed. A return to regular activities may be delayed for weeks or months.

What Are Treatment Options for a Sprained Ankle?

Sprained ankle treatment depends on the severity of the injury. In many cases, self-care and relaxing may be all that’s required. It’s important to remember to rest, apply ice, and elevate your ankle immediately after a sprain.

When Should You See a Doctor for a Sprained Ankle?

Seek medical care when:

  • The pain is so severe, even when you have rested and iced the affected area.
  • It’s hard to walk or you can’t walk at all without experiencing a lot of pain.
  • After 5-7 days, your ankle hasn’t improved.

Your doctor will determine how severe your sprain is, and what type of treatment you’ll need for a full recovery.

How Can You Prevent a Sprained Ankle?

Avoid a sprained ankle by:

  • Keep your ankles strong and flexible with strengthening exercises.
  • Wear the right shoes appropriate for an activity. Avoid high-heeled shoes when possible.
  • Tape a weak ankle for added support or wear an ankle brace during sports activities.
  • Warm up before you exercise or play sports.
  • Watch where you walk or run to avoid uneven surfaces.

If you suspect you have an ankle sprain and are looking for treatment options, make an appointment today with one of our NY Orthopedics locations in New York City. Our “Centers of Excellence” offer top-level orthopedic treatment for any concerns about your ankle and other joints, all in one location.

Physio Works – Physiotherapy Brisbane

Call PhysioWorks

Book Online

Helpful Products for Sprained Ankles

Related Injuries

General Information

  • Heel Pain
  • Ankle Pain
  • Foot Pain

Heel Pain

  • Heel Spur

Traumatic Ankle Ligament Injuries

  • Sprained Ankle
  • High Ankle Sprain

Tendinopathies/Fasciopathies

  • Achilles Tendon Rupture
  • Achilles Tendinopathy
  • FHL Tendinopathy
  • Peroneal Tendinopathy
  • Tibialis Posterior Tendinopathy
  • Plantar Fasciitis

Foot Injuries

  • Bunion
  • Metatarsalgia
  • Morton’s Neuroma

Bone Injuries

  • Ankle Fracture (Broken Ankle)
  • Stress Fracture
  • Stress Fracture Feet
  • Severs Disease
  • Heel Spur
  • Shin Splints

Degenerative Conditions

  • Ankle Arthritis

Soft Tissue Inflammation

  • Retrocalcaneal Bursitis

Biomechanical Conditions

  • Anterior Ankle Impingement
  • Posterior Ankle Impingement
  • Pes Planus (Flat Feet)

Nerve-Related Sources

  • Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Sciatica
  • Pinched Nerve
  • Restless Leg Syndrome

Muscle Injuries

  • Cramps
  • Muscle Strain

Systemic Conditions

  • Fibromyalgia
  • Lupus
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Psoriatic Arthritis
  • Heel Pain
  • Ankle Pain
  • Foot Pain

Sprained Ankle Treatment Options

  • Early Injury Treatment
  • Avoid the HARM Factors
  • Soft Tissue Injury? What are the Healing Phases?
  • What to do after a Muscle Strain or Ligament Sprain?
  • Acupuncture and Dry Needling
  • Sub-Acute Soft Tissue Injury Treatment
  • Active Foot Posture Correction Exercises
  • Gait Analysis
  • Biomechanical Analysis
  • Balance Enhancement Exercises
  • Proprioception & Balance Exercises
  • Agility & Sport-Specific Exercises
  • Medications?
  • Heel Cups
  • Orthotics
  • Soft Tissue Massage
  • Walking Boot
  • Ankle Strapping
  • Brace or Support
  • Dry Needling
  • Electrotherapy & Local Modalities
  • Heat Packs
  • Joint Mobilisation Techniques
  • Kinesiology Tape
  • Neurodynamics
  • Physiotherapy Instrument Mobilisation (PIM)
  • Prehabilitation
  • Running Analysis
  • Strength Exercises
  • Stretching Exercises
  • Supportive Taping & Strapping
  • TENS Machine
  • Video Analysis
  • FAQs about Sprained Ankles

  • Common Physiotherapy Treatment Techniques
  • What is Pain?
  • Physiotherapy & Exercise
  • When Should Diagnostic Tests Be Performed?
  • Can Kinesiology Taping Reduce Your Swelling and Bruising?
  • How Can You Prevent a Future Leg Injury?
  • How Do You Improve Your Balance?
  • How Much Treatment Will You Need?
  • How to Strap an Ankle
  • Sports Injury? What to do? When?
  • What are the Common Massage Therapy Techniques?
  • What are the Early Warning Signs of an Injury?
  • What is a TENS Machine?
  • What is Chronic Pain?
  • What is Nerve Pain?
  • What is Sports Physiotherapy?
  • What’s the Benefit of Stretching Exercises?
  • When Can You Return to Sport?
  • Why Kinesiology Tape Helps Reduce Swelling and Bruising Quicker
  • Call PhysioWorks

    Book Online

    What Happens When an Ankle Sprain Will Not Heal?

    How Do Ankle Sprains Happen?

    At EmergeOrtho—Triangle Region, our board certified orthopedic foot and ankle doctors work together to provide precision diagnosis and treatment of ankle sprains.

    Common causes of ankle sprains include:

    • Sudden, unnatural movements
    • Traumatic impacts
    • Extreme overuse

    You do not have to be an athlete to experience a sprained ankle. Sports and activities such as running, football, and soccer aren’t the only causes of sprained ankles. A sprained ankle can be the result of something as unassuming as an awkward trip on the sidewalk, a job-related incident, or even an awkward misstep getting out of a car.

    What Treatments Are Recommended for a Mild Ankle Sprain?

    If you have experienced a mild injury to the ligaments of the ankle, simple steps treatment steps can be taken to treat the injury, which often include:

    • The RICE Method
      RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Applying the RICE method to the injured area of the ankle can relieve pain and swelling and enable healing.
    • Medication
      Over-the-counter, anti-inflammatory medication can reduce pain and swelling.
    • Assistive Devices
      Compression wraps and braces can help to limit movement, preventing more damage to the ankle.

    Even in cases of mild sprains, talking to your doctor about appropriate treatments should always be the first step you take.

    How Long Does a Sprained Ankle Take to Heal?

    Mild, low-grade ankle sprains will usually heal in one to three weeks with proper rest and care. Moderate injuries may take between three and four weeks. Because of limited blood flow to the ligaments of the ankle, more severe ankle injuries may take between three and six months to heal.

    How Do You Treat a More Severe Ankle Sprain?

    Treatment varies depending on the type and severity of ankle sprain. Most likely, treatment for a severe ankle sprain involves one or more of the following:

    • Immobilization
      Your doctor may fit you in a boot or prescribe crutches for a period of time to prevent movement of the ankle joint and to allow the ankle to heal.
    • Physical Therapy
      Our physicians often prescribe physical therapy as an integral part of healing a severe ankle sprain. It is a proactive approach to see if you can get better on your own or if more action may be needed. Physical therapy ultimately helps build back strength, range of motion, stability, and confidence on your feet.
    • Steroid Injections
      If inflammation will not go away, following the treatment protocols listed above, your doctor may prescribe steroid injections.

    When Is an Ankle Sprain More Than an Ankle Sprain?

    Here is where working with a subspecialty orthopedic expert pays off. It is actually quite common to experience other injuries alongside an ankle sprain. A sprain might mask a more serious ankle condition like a fracture, stretched or torn tendons, torn ligaments, or a cartilage injury.

    If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, the first step is to consult with an orthopedic physician who specializes in the foot and ankle:

    • Persistent swelling
    • Continued feelings of instability
    • Problematic mobility on uneven ground
    • Ongoing weakness in the ankle
    • General discomfort

    If these symptoms sound familiar, then you may be suffering from something more than an ankle sprain. If the sprain is not getting better, it is always best to be proactive.

    Untreated, conditions can worsen into chronic ankle sprains and instability, both of which can be debilitating in the long term. This may also make arthritis of the ankle more likely, especially if the ankle continues to deteriorate.

    Diagnostic imaging is the next step to determine the best method to treat your ankle. With an MRI, an orthopedic provider can work with you on an approach to treat any underlying conditions or extensive injuries.

    One area of concern linked to lingering ankle problems is chronic ankle instability. This condition occurs when ligaments and tissue cannot sufficiently stabilize the ankle. In these cases, they must be recreated. Advanced technology and better understanding of ankle ligaments have enabled EmergeOrtho—Triangle Region to offer sophisticated procedures to anatomically reconstruct the ligament. In-turn, ankle stability and foot and ankle pain are greatly improved.

    In some cases, when conservative treatment methods have not been effective in addressing ankle sprains and painful symptoms, surgery may be recommended. An EmergeOrtho—Triangle Region doctor may suggest a minimally-invasive arthroscopy or ligament tightening procedure.

    EmergeOrtho—Triangle Region’s primary goal is to help you Emerge stronger. Healthier. Better.

    Have you been searching online for a “foot and ankle Dr. near me,” only to come up empty handed? If you have an ankle injury that continues to cause pain and instability, do not wait for treatment, request a visit now. Or, call one of our EmergeOrtho—Triangle Region offices any time at (919) 220-5255.

    About the author

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *