3 Ways to Heal a Sprained Ankle Fast

It happens in an instant.

One moment you’re walking in the woods, out for a run, playing basketball — then, in a split second, you’re down. You’ve awkwardly twisted your foot or rolled your ankle, and the damage to the ligaments around your ankle joint is done.

 A doctor wraps a patient’s sprained ankle.

Over two million people each year suffer from this sudden accidental injury. An ankle sprain can leave you out of commission for months, so if it happens to you, you’ll want to know how to heal a sprained ankle really fast. We see a lot of sprained ankles at Town Center Orthopaedics, and we can help you get back on your feet as quickly as possible.

Healing Light Sprains, Severe Sprains, and All the 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. Your recovery from a sprained ankle can be improved by taking the following actions:

Talk to Your Doctor

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’s anatomy: a high ankle sprain tears the ligaments which attach the tibia to the fibula, while a low ankle sprain stretches or tears the ligaments around the ankle joint.

Your doctor will examine your ankle and 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 is completely torn from the joint, and there may also be a bone fracture.

If your sprain falls into Grade 1, it may cause you some pain and discomfort but should heal without too much issue if you follow instructions, keep your weight off your ankle, and don’t rush your recovery. You may need crutches for a short amount of time.

A patient sits in a waiting room with crutches and wearing a boot to protect her sprained ankle

However, if your sprain falls into Grades 2 or 3, your treatment and recovery will be more complicated. You will probably need a removable plastic device such as a cast boot to provide support for a Grade 2 sprain. Grade 3 sprain treatment may require a short leg cast for 2-3 weeks.

Follow the R.I.C.E Home Treatment Plan

Regardless of the grade, your doctor will recommend taking ibuprofen, naproxen, or acetaminophen to reduce pain. Your doctor will also suggest using a treatment plan called R.I.C.E. to decrease swelling and protect the ligaments from further injury. RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevate.

  • Rest your ankle by not walking on it.
  • Ice your ankle to reduce swelling during the first 48-72 hours (use an icepack for 10 – 20 minutes every 1 to 2 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. 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 sprain heal more quickly.

Exercise Your Ankle and Prevent Further Injury

Once cleared by your doctor, you can begin physical therapy 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.

A person walking down the stairs twists their ankle, causing a sprain. It happens in an instant.

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 pull
  • Ankle out and ankle in

Ankle balance exercises:

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

Read more about ankle sprains and recovery time here.

Heal Sprained Ankles Fast With Town Center Orthopaedics

If you or a loved one suffer an ankle injury, quick treatment will help get you back on your feet. The professionals at Town Center Orthopaedics are here to help at one of our convenient locations in Reston, Ashburn, and Centreville. Call (571) 307-4980 or request an appointment. We look forward to helping you heal with our state-of-the-art and well-regarded patient-focused care.

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