A sprained ankle is one of the most common sporting injuries, often recurring regularly if not treated and rehabilitated correctly. In most cases the foot is rolled inwards, resulting in stretching or tearing of the ligaments on the outside of the ankle. Occasionally, there is associated muscle, bone or cartilage damage involved too.
Stepping or running onto an unstable surface or landing unbalanced can cause your ankle to ‘roll’ and sprain your ankle. Pain, swelling and bruising may follow. Depending on the severity of your sprain, you may have trouble standing on your foot or walking. In these cases, a walking boot, crutches or strapping might be advisable.
How long does it take for an ankle sprain to heal?
This can vary greatly depending on the grade of your ankle sprain.
Grade 1 will most likely heal within 2 to 3 weeks, although it can take up to 6 weeks for full scar tissue maturation. Untreated mild ankle sprains quite often result in joint stiffness, ligament laxity, muscle weakness or reduced proprioception (balance and joint awareness). This can lead to compensations in other parts of the body, which can lead to other injuries at a later time.
Grade 2 sprains have more severe ligament stretch and need 4 to 6 weeks recovery time.
Grade 3 ligament injuries are when the ligament is completely ruptured. The rehabilitation of a Grade 3 ankle sprain normally takes 6 to 12 weeks but is quite variable depending on your specific injury.
Treatment of ankle sprains
Depending on the grade or severity of your injury, treatment will be tailored to your individual needs. A sprained ankle can increase your risk of re-injury as much as 40-70%, but the correct post-injury rehabilitation exercises significantly decrease the risk.
Pain relief, regaining full range of motion, strengthening of calf and ankle muscles, restoring proprioception, normalising gait patterns and returning to sports are goals that will be addressed to get you the best rehabilitation and get you back to doing what you love.