How To Heal a Sprained Ankle Overnight (Hint: You Can't)

In an instant, your serene walk in the woods, invigorating run, or spirited basketball game can take a sudden turn. A misstep, a twist, or a roll, and the ligaments surrounding your ankle joint bear the brunt of the impact, leaving you dealing with the aftermath of an ankle sprain.

An estimated two million people grapple with this common injury annually, the repercussions of which can bench you for months. You may find yourself in this predicament wondering how to heal a sprained ankle overnight. At Town Center Orthopaedics, where we frequently encounter sprained ankles, our mission is to guide you through a swift recovery and get you back on your feet.

Healing Light Sprains, Severe Sprains, and All Sprains in Between

When you sprain your ankle, the sudden twisting or rolling of your ankle stretches or tears the ligaments that hold the joint together. Learning how long does a sprained ankle take to heal requires following these recommended strategies:

Talk to Your Doctor

A person walking down the stairs twists their ankle, causing a sprain.

First, talk to your doctor to make sure that your ankle sprain is actually a sprain and not a more serious injury like a fracture. Your doctor may also want to determine if you have a high or low ankle sprain. The difference is in the ankle sprain anatomy: A high ankle sprain tears the ankle ligaments, which attach the tibia to the fibula. In contrast, a low ankle sprain stretches or tears the ligaments around the ankle joint.

Your doctor will examine your ankle and may assign a grade to your injury. Ankle sprains fall into one of three grades depending on their severity:

  • Grade 1: The ligament is stretched but not torn, and the swelling and discomfort are not severe.
  • Grade 2: There is a partial tear in the ligament, with prolonged pain and swelling.
  • Grade 3: The ligament has a complete tear, and there is swelling and pain.

Grade 1 ankle sprains usually cause more mild pain and discomfort and usually heal without too much issue if you follow instructions and don’t rush your recovery. You may need crutches for a short amount of time.

However, if your sprain falls into Grades 2 or 3, your treatment and recovery will be more complicated. You may need bracing or immobilization with a Grade 2 or 3 sprain. Grade 3 sprain treatment may require a short leg cast for two to three weeks.

Download Ankle Sprains: Treatment and Tips for a Faster Recovery.

Follow the RICE Home Treatment Plan

Regardless of the grade, your doctor may recommend taking ibuprofen, naproxen, or acetaminophen to reduce pain. Your doctor will also suggest using a sprained ankle self-care treatment plan called the RICE method to decrease swelling and protect the ligaments from further injury. RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevate:

  • Rest your ankle by reducing walking on it.
  • Ice your ankle to reduce swelling during the first 48-72 hours (use an ice pack for 10-20 minutes every one to two hours during the day).
  • Compression used during the first 24 to 36 hours with an elastic wrap will help depress swelling and support the ankle.
  • Elevate the foot above the heart to keep fluid from accumulating in the area of the injury.

Follow your doctor’s instructions carefully for the best chance of successful healing from your ankle injury. Remember, without proper treatment, your ankle may not heal well. You could lose range of motion and stability, which could result in more sprains and more downtime in the future. Proper foot and ankle care will help your recovery time.

Exercise Your Ankle and Prevent Further Injury

Once cleared by your doctor, you can begin working with physical therapists or exercises to restore function and prevent re-injury. This can help your ankle heal faster than it would on its own. The following exercises (explanations of which can be seen here) will help improve motion, flexibility, strength, and balance.

Ankle range of motion exercises:

  • Ankle alphabet
  • Knee motion
  • Towel and tissue scrunchies

Ankle stretching exercises:

  • Towel stretches
  • Standing calf stretch
  • Heel raise
  • One-leg balance

Ankle strengthening exercises:

  • Elastic band push and pullAnkle out and ankle in

Ankle balance exercises:

  • Balance with eyes open and closed
  • Pillow balance with eyes open and closed

Heal Sprained Ankles Fast With Town Center Orthopaedics

If you or a loved one are wondering how to heal a sprained ankle overnight, the professionals at Town Center Orthopaedics are here to help at one of our convenient locations in Ashburn, Centreville, Fairfax, and Reston, VA. Call (703) 435-6604 or request an appointment. We look forward to helping you learn how to heal a sprained ankle fast with our state-of-the-art and well-regarded patient-focused care.

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