Sprained Ankle Recovery Time
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A sprained ankle is one of the most common conditions that cause ankle pain in the general public. Their recovery can vary hugely depending on the severity of the ankle sprain. As foot and ankle specialists, we have seen thousands of ankle sprains over the years, and this article will highlight the recovery time and stages for each grade of ankle fracture. We have an extensive volume of articles on braces, exercises, and faqs for all ankle sprains, including high ankle sprains and medial ankle sprains.
A grade 1 ankle sprain is an overstretching of the ligaments from a sudden ankle joint movement. This occurs most commonly when walking on uneven surfaces or changing direction when playing sports.
A grade 1 ankle sprain feels like a slight pull on your ankle, and in some instances, there is no pain at all, mild pain at the time or pain may not begin until hours after the incident.
There is often very little bruising or swelling on the ankle joint for a grade 1 sprain.
The recovery time for a grade 1 sprained ankle is 1-4 weeks. In the initial instance, it is essential to keep the joint mobile, and non-impact exercises such as swimming and cycling are beneficial before commencing sprained ankle rehabilitation exercises.
A Grade 2 Sprained ankle occurs when up to 50% of the ligament fibres are torn. The most common causes of a Grade 2 ankle sprain include a trip or fall, changing direction at speed or from a tackle in sport.
There is often swelling and bruising within a few hours of the incident, with an immediate onset of pain at the time of injury. It can be painful to bear weight and to walk, but it is usually possible.
The ankle is stiff first thing in the morning and when walking after sitting for some time. The stiffness within the joint can cause tightening of the surrounding muscles and an altered gait pattern.
A healthcare professional must assess this injury as recovery time for a Grade 2 Sprained Ankle is 4-8 weeks, but it can be longer when it is not managed correctly.
The initial 2 weeks post-injury should focus on protecting the joint from further injury while keeping it moving. This can be achieved with gentle range of motion exercises and aqua running. Stretching of the calf muscles is beneficial for maintaining a regular gait pattern.
Weeks 2-8 should involve a progressive rehabilitation protocol, with patients typically commencing hopping exercises in week 6 and returning to the sport in week 8.
A Grade 3 sprained ankle is a complete rupture of an ankle ligament. A Grade 3 Sprained ankle occurs from falling, slipping, a tackle where a patient’s foot is planted, and there is the impact from the side or slipping when changing direction at speed.
The symptoms of a Grade 3 ankle sprain include an audible ‘pop’ or ‘crack’ at the time of injury. In some instances, there is little or no pain at the time of injury but the immediate onset of swelling in the ankle, making it challenging to remove socks or footwear.
Pain levels can intensify in the hours post-injury, and it is expected that patients cannot bear weight on the affected ankle joint. Swelling can increase for 24 hours post-injury, and a dark blue bruising can present. It is not unusual to bruise the foot with a Grade 3 sprain.
Most patients attend A&E with this injury severity, where an x-ray is performed to rule out an Avulsion Fracture. Patients are usually sent home on crutches if the scan returns as ‘normal’; apartt from an Avulsion fracture, it isimpossiblee to detect ligament injuries on an x-ray.
An assessment with a Physical Therapist is recommended if you have a suspected Grade 3 Ankle Sprain. A Therapist can clinically diagnose the severity of a sprained ankle based on clinical tests. Still, they may refer patients for an MRI to rule out other injuries, such as fractures, muscle tears or osteochondral lesions.
Recovery time for a Grade 3 Sprained ankle is 3 months once there are no other complications. In an ideal world, this injury is placed in a walker boot immediately post-injury to reduce inflammation levels and encourage healing of ligaments in an optimal position; most walker boots have a compression pump to help manage to swell.
Non-weight bearing exercises in a swimming pool or hydrotherapy pool and cycling on a static bike can help to reduce pain levels, improve range of motion and decrease swelling in the first 1-3 weeks.
A progressive rehabilitation protocol should commence after this period, including balance, strength and stretching exercises. At week 8, hopping protocols and running in straight lines can commence as pain allows, while a change of direction and sports commence between weeks 10-12.
It is essential to keep in mind that no ankle sprain recovers the same as another, and many variables can contribute to healing times. Still, hopefully, this article helps you with a general understanding of a sprained ankle recovery time.
This is not medical advice and we recommend a consultation with a medical professional such as James McCormack before trying any of these exercises. James offers Online Physiotherapy Appointments.