Everything You Need to Know About Sprained Ankles - Orthopedic Associates Blog

One small misstep off a curb or a turn of your ankle on the sports field can have lasting effects, taking you out of the game and making it hard to walk. When the ankle is overstretched or rolled, it can pull on the ligaments hard enough to cause a sprain.

This injury is quite common, and can happen to people of all ages – but it’s most common for athletes. Ankle sprains often happen when you’re jumping or running sometimes while playing soccer, football, or volleyball.

Severity of an Ankle Sprain

Not all ankle injuries are created equal. Ankle sprains can be classified in several levels:

  1. Grade One Ankle Sprain: A minor injury that leaves you in pain, but you can still walk. The ankle feels stable. You will notice symptoms such as stiffness and swelling in the ankle.
  2. Grade Two Ankle Sprain: The injury is a little more serious because of tears in the ligaments – but they aren’t torn completely. You’ll find that the joint isn’t completely stable, and you have a limited range of motion. The area is tender to the touch and it’s painful to walk. The swelling and stiffness linger during recovery.
  3. Grade Three Ankle Sprain: The most serious type of ankle sprain involves complete tears through the ligaments. As a result, the ankle feels unstable, so you can’t walk. It’s common to experience severe bruising and swelling, as well as intense pain.

Regardless of the severity of your injury, it’s important that you are proactive with immediate treatment. Small ankle sprains can be treated at home, but moderate and severe injuries require professional medical services to determine the extent of treatment required.

Treatment Recommendations at Home

A few at-home remedies can be helpful for ankle sprains. If it’s a little sore but you can still walk, then try these at-home remedies to speed up recovery.

These treatment recommendations for sprains are often referred to as the R.I.C.E. strategy:

  • Rest: As hard as it is to stay off your feet, rest and relaxation are important to help the ankle heal. Clear your schedule, stay away from the sports field, and dedicate a few days so you can stay on the couch. Minimize walking as much as possible. If you need to move around, try using crutches to avoid putting weight on the foot.
  • Ice: Reduce the swelling by applying ice packs to the injury. Make sure to use a hand towel to protect your skin from the ice. This treatment should be used several times a day with ice applications lasting between 15 and 20 minutes each.
  • Compression: Another way to decrease swelling is by wrapping the injury. Use an ankle brace or an ace bandage to support the ankle. Be careful to avoid wrapping it too tight.
  • Elevation: Keeping your ankle above your heart level can help with swelling. Elevate the injured foot by propping it on a pillow when you are sitting on the couch or laying in bed. If you need to sit at a computer for work, prop the foot up on an extra chair.

If the pain is difficult to manage, you might take over-the-counter medications. Some of these nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications can also help with swelling management.

Sprained Ankle Recovery Time

How long does it take to heal a sprained ankle? Healing time depends on the severity of your injury as well as your commitment to rest, recovery, and treatment. Following the tips listed above will speed up your healing time.

Grade one sprains usually heal within 2 – 4 weeks. Grade two sprains can take as long as 6 – 8 weeks for recovery. Grade three injuries often require surgery, which means that recovery time can be anywhere from 12 weeks to 6 months.

Here are a few tips to speed up recovery for a sprained ankle:

  • Heat: When the swelling has gone down, it can sometimes be helpful to use heat on the injury. This at-home treatment increases blood flow to the injured area and can also ease tension, pain, and tight muscles.
  • Physical Therapy: Stretching and gentle exercises can help to keep the muscles limber and strong, which is beneficial during recovery. Consider a few visits with a physical therapist as well as a consistent schedule at home to follow the recommended exercises. Always be careful to avoid overextending the ankle in the movements you are using.
  • Walking: Did you know that walking can promote healing for a sprained ankle? In the first few days, you should stay off the foot. As the swelling decreases and the ankle starts to heal, short distance walking can be good for your recovery. Start slowly and gradually build up your distance and endurance.

What to Do When Your Sprained Ankle Pain is Getting Worse?

Initial symptoms of a sprained ankle often include:

  • Bruising: Discoloration of the skin around the injured areas.
  • Redness:  Injury causes more blood flow in the area, often resulting in redness of the skin. Also, you will notice that the injury is warm to the touch.
  • Instability: Moderate ankle sprains can cause the joint to be a little unstable. If it is a severe injury, you will be unable to walk because the ankle is unstable.
  • Swelling: Minor swelling or major swelling that leaves an indent when you press the area with your finger.
  • Pain: Constant pain and throbbing are common with sprained ankles. You will notice that the pain intensifies when you stand, walk, move your foot, or press on it.
  • Movement: A sprained ankle can limit movement because you will find it difficult to walk.

Most of the time, these symptoms start to decrease after a few days, and you will notice big differences a week after the injury. Even when the ankle starts to feel a little better, you should be proactive with care and treatment to avoid re-injury.

If you have severe pain from the beginning, you notice the symptoms aren’t subsiding after a few days, or you find that the symptoms are worsening, then it’s time to talk to a doctor. The best solution is to schedule an appointment with an orthopedic specialist.

During this appointment, the injury will be diagnosed and we can determine the severity of the sprain. Our goal is to use minimally-invasive treatments whenever possible such as physical therapy and other related treatments. But sometimes surgery is required for serious injuries when the ligaments are torn through or there is damage to the bone.

Schedule a Consultation with Our Orthopedic Team in Flower Mound and Denton

Whether you recently sprained your ankle or you are dealing with chronic pain from old injuries, our team is here to help you find relief. We take an integrative approach to promote healing and speed up your recovery time.

Our goal is to get you back on the sports field or back to your regular activities as safely as possible.

For more information about available services, talk to us at Orthopedic Associates- located in Flower Mound and Denton, TX. Our full-service team is here to help with your recovery. Contact our office if you would like to book an appointment.

Treatment Recommendations at Home

Becki Andrus