Ankle Sprain Recovery: Healing and Rehab

Adrienne Burdette August 02, 2020 No Comments

All it takes is a single trip or misstep to twist your ankle. Then, for the next few weeks (or months), you’re dealing with the ankle sprain recovery process. The injury can cause pain, swelling, and difficulty walking, as well as an increased risk of future sprains.


Many people try to push through ankle injuries, avoiding medical attention. But without proper healing and rehab, your ankle could lose range of motion and stability.

Below, we’ll walk you through the basic steps to full ankle sprain recovery from the moment it happens.

The First 48 Hours

If you’ve taken a wrong step and sprained your ankle, the firstthing to do is keep weight off of it. Don’t try to walk on your ankle and getto a place where you can rest as soon as you can.


For the first 48 hours, follow the RICE—rest, ice, compression,and elevation—protocol, icing for 15 minutes three times a day. While you’redoing this, make an appointment with your doctor to evaluate the grade of thesprain and give you a healing timeline. Following the RICE protocol can reducethe time it takes to heal sprained ankle injuries.


Ankle sprain recovery can take anywhere from one week toseveral months, based on the grades outlined below:

·     Grade 1: This sprain usually takes one tothree weeks to heal. It involves minimal ligament damage caused byover stretching and no tearing. It may cause mild pain, swelling, andtenderness, and there is usually no bruising or instability.

·     Grade 2: This sprain usually takes threeto six weeks to heal. It involves a partial ligament tear resulting in moderatepain, swelling, tenderness, and possible bruising. It may cause mild tomoderate joint instability.

·     Grade 3: This sprain usually takesseveral months to heal. It involves a full tear or rupture of the ligamentswith severe pain, swelling, tenderness, and bruising. It will causeinstability, loss of function and range of motion, and an inability to bearweight.

Only a medical professional can tell you how bad your sprain is and when you can begin rehab. Follow your doctor's instructions after your visit as needed.

We’ve outlined basic exercises below to help you when you’re ready for rehabilitation:

Exercises to Help Restore Function

For full ankle sprain recovery, you need to restore range of motion. You also need to strengthen the muscles and ligaments around your ankle. If your sprain is mild, your doctor might clear you to start these exercises after your first 48 hours.  

Perform the exercises gently every morning or evening for the best results. You can do them seated on the floor or in a chair. If your symptoms aren’t better after four weeks of doing these exercises daily, consult a physical therapist or specialist.

Sprained Ankle Recovery Exercises: Weeks 1-2

Start this routine after you have obtained clearance from your medical professional. These exercises will help you restore the range of motion while stretch-ing and strengthening the area:

·     Flexes: Rest the heel of your injuredfoot on the floor. Start one repetition as you gently pull the toes and foottoward your body. Think of it like trying to point at your chest with your bigtoe. Then point the toes away from your body as far as you can before repeating20 times.

·     Alphabet: Keep the heel of your injuredfoot on the floor. Write the alphabet in all capital letters in the air withyour big toe. Make the letters as big as you can.

·     Pressing Away: Keep the heel of yourinjured leg on the ground and straighten the leg. Loop an exercise band, towel,tie, or whatever you have around the ball of the injured foot and hold ittaught as you press into it with your foot. Hold for a few seconds beforereleasing and repeating 20 times.

Sprained Ankle Recovery Exercises: Weeks 3-4

After two weeks of doing the seated stretches outlined above,you should be able to get clearance from your doctor for the standing set. Thisroutine will focus on strengthening and stretching your muscles more, reducingthe risk of another sprain in the future:

     Wall Stretch: Stand facing a wall anarm's length away. Press your hands into the wall, shoulder-width apart, andstep your injured leg straight back one or two feet, toes facing forward. Keepthe injured leg straight and press the heel down. Bend the front knee until youfeel a stretch, hold for 15 seconds, and repeat three times. 
Calf Raises: Stand beside a wall or chairto hold for balance with your feet hip-width apart. Raise up onto your toes,hold for one second, and then lower to the starting position. Repeat 20 times.

Drop Stretches: Place a thick book on thefloor and stand with the balls of your feet on it, your heels off the ground.Use a chair or wall for balance as you lower your heels towards the floor untilyou feel a stretch on the injured side. Hold for one second and repeat 15times. 

Be Patient

Don’t overdo the stretches or try to rush the healing process.Stop movement immediately if you feel sharp or shooting pain and ask yourdoctor for advice if you feel unable to do any of these movements.


Want some pain relief while you heal?


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August 2nd, 2020. This article is independently written by Fusion 360. All opinions given are the opinion of Fusion 360


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