Ankle sprains are common injuries that occur in as many as 25,000 people every day in the United States. They occur when you roll, twist, or otherwise turn your ankle in a way that stretches or tears the ligaments that hold your ankle bones together. This can occur during sports or some other physical activity, but you are just as likely to sprain your ankle by walking on an uneven surface.
A sprained ankle may be painful and debilitating, but fortunately the sprained ankle injury recovery process usually doesn’t require surgery. Some cases may only require rest and over-the-counter pain medication, but you should still speak to a doctor to know the severity of your own injury.
The Stages of Ankle Injury Recovery
Regardless of how severe your sprained ankle may be, the sprained ankle injury recovery process can be divided into three stages. The first stage is the acute phase. Depending on the severity of your injury, this stage will last between one and seven days. The goal during the acute phase is to minimize swelling and slowly progress towards walking again. This usually involves rest, ice, compression, and elevation, otherwise known as RICE. To be more specific, you will need to stay off of your injured ankle, apply an ice pack to minimize swelling, and keep it elevated. You may need to wear a boot or a brace to stabilize the ligament as it heals. Over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen may be taken to help manage your pain.
Stage two is the recovery phase. This is the stage when the ligaments start to heal, and it can last between one and two weeks depending on the severity of the sprain. The goal during this stage is to protect the ankle and begin to restore its function. Your doctor may suggest therapeutic exercises to increase your strength and range of motion.
Stage three is the functional phase. This stage can last for several months if the sprain was particularly severe, but it typically last for a period of weeks. The goal during the functional phase is to restore your ankle to your normal level of activity. You should have full range of motion during this stage, although you may still need to engage in exercises to strengthen your ankle.
The prognosis of ankle sprains tend to be favorable, with most patients making a full recovery. However, severe sprains may result in chronic pain and instability. Speak to your doctor to learn more about the severity of your own ankle injury and how to best proceed during the recovery process.