Sprained ankle recovery time varies from case to case. If you are dealing with a normal sprained ankle, you shouldn’t have to wait too long until you’re healthy again. However, if you’ve done significant damage to the ankle, you could be resting it for a while. Here’s a breakdown of what sprained ankle recovery time looks like, and what you should expect if you sprain your ankle.
Sprained Ankle Recovery Time
Orthopedists deal with sprained ankles just about every day. They’re the most common injury by a landslide and a sort of inevitability. Most people sprain their ankle at least once in life, and especially active people tend to do it a few times. However, each sprained ankle requires it’s own care and diagnosis. Sprained ankle recovery time and treatment can change a lot based on how bad the sprain is, how it happened, and how long it was until the patient sought care.
You can treat almost every sprained ankle with the RICE method. The RICE method is simple: rest, ice, compression, elevation. Get off the ankle, put some ice on it, wrap it, and keep it above your heart when you’re resting. If you do that, it will feel like no time at all until your sprained ankle is fully recovered. As it stands, too much standing can only do more damage. If you want your sprained ankle recovery time to be as short as possible, you need to keep off of it as much as you can bear. Remember: it’s better to deal with it now than to deal with it forever.
Grade 1 Sprain
A grade 1 ankle sprain is the least severe and, accordingly, requires the least amount of time to recover. A grade 1 sprain occurs when there is only minor damage, and stretching of the ligaments. If you are suffering from a grade 1 sprain, you will feel only a little soreness. This level of sprain shouldn’t result in any instability or muscle weakness but can cause minor swelling.
Grade 1 sprained ankle recovery time is anywhere from 2 weeks to a month, normally closer to the two-week mark with proper treatment. A grade 1 sprained ankle can be treated almost entirely at home. The pain is fairly minor, if difficult to deal with. However, “home treatment” doesn’t mean “no treatment”. The pain is negligible now, but it can often be aggravated easily. Remember: stay off the ankle! A grade 1 sprained ankle has fully healed when there is no more pain or selling.
Grade 2 Sprain
A grade 2 sprained ankle is a step above a grade 1 sprained ankle and is several steps below a grade 3 sprained ankle. The most immediate sign of a grade 2 sprained ankle is bruising and swelling. When the sprain is received, the ankle should begin to swell almost immediately, and bruising should follow soon after. A grade 2 sprained ankle causes moderate pain, swelling of the joint, and some joint instability. If you feel like you could walk on the ankle, but might stumble or fall, you’re dealing with a grade 2 sprained ankle.
Being just a little more severe than a grade 1 sprained ankle, grade 2 sprained ankle recovery time tends to last between 6 and 8 weeks. A grade 2 sprained ankle should not be treated at home unless you or someone who can care for you is a medical professional. Grade 2 sprained ankles often involve a partial tear in ligaments. Several things, such as too much pressure or even a minor second injury, can severely compound the ligament tear. A doctor is likely to tell you to treat the injury at home but will be able to provide more clarity in how you should go about that.
While you have room for error in the treatment of a grade 1 ankle sprain, you certainly do not in the case of a grade 2.
Grade 3 Sprain
Finally, you might receive a grade 3 ankle sprain. If you do, you need to forget the idea of home treatment. A grade 3 sprained ankle could mean ligamentous rupture, which can cause permanent damage to the joint. Besides that, bruising and swelling will be extensive. The joint will be entirely unstable, and walking on the ankle will be nearly impossible. You must see a doctor in this case, as a grade 3 sprain could be or lead to several other injuries, most notably avulsion fracture. An avulsion fracture occurs when the ligaments are torn from the joint.
Grade 3 sprained ankle recovery time is highly variable. The most accurate estimate I can provide is 3 to 6 months, but that will depend on the injury and the doctor. Some are more conservative in the amount of time they allow for recovery, which is often for the best. Sprained ankle recovery time should be treated as an investment for a healthier future. Restlessness is common and understandable, but the annoyance is better than pain.
If you or a loved one is experiencing pain, talk to an ankle doctor at Orthopedic Associates. Specialists Aaron D. Schrayer, M.D. and Michael J. Willenborg, M.D. are veterans in the field, and ready to treat any injury that has befallen you.