How to Heal a Sprained Ankle Fast

Sprained ankles are common injuries that cause swelling, pain and instability in the ankle joint. On average, ankle sprains take about 6 weeks to heal. However, in serious cases the healing time could be up to 4 months. Proper treatment can help speed up the healing process and decrease the risk of recurring injuries. Read on and learn how to heal a sprained ankle fast.

What Is an Ankle Sprain?

A sprain occurs when the ligaments that support the ankle are stretched. When the foot is inverted (turned inwards) the ligaments outside the ankle get hurt.

There are three degrees of ankle sprains:

  • 1st degree sprain: slight tearing and stretching of the ligament; the joint is still functional or with little impairment; minor pain, stiffness and swelling.
  • 2nd degree sprain: the tearing of the ligament is more serious; the joint is moderately unstable; moderate to serious pain when bearing weight; significant stiffness and swelling.
  • 3rd degree sprain: the ligament is totally raptured; loss of joint functionality as well as stability; serious pain at first, then no pain; serious swelling.

How to Heal a Sprained Ankle Fast

What You Should Do

This is what you should do to heal a sprained ankle fast:

  • P.R.I.C.E.treatment(Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation). This is the initial treatment for a sprain. It basically focuses on reduction of the swelling, relieving the pain and improvement of the ankle movement.
  • Protection: You should think of how to protect the injured part. You can lie or sit down to take away the pressure from the ankle, and try to avoid anything that might worsen your injury or cause more harm.
  • Rest: Activities need to be toned down in the first 24 to 48 hours of injury. This is the critical healing period. With time, allow your ankle to carry as much weight as you can withstand. As soon as you are able to walk, stop using a crutch.
  • Ice: Applying ice on the affected area will help reduce pain and the swelling as well. Ice packs are helpful, but ice wraps would be more appropriate as they are made to engulf the joint.
  • Compression: In the early stages of treatment, use compression. Use an ace bandage to tie the injured area from the toes to the top of the calf muscle. Overlap the wrap by one-half of its width. Tie it tight enough, but not too tight that it interferes with circulation.
  • Elevation: As often as you can, raise your sprained ankle above your heart. This will reduce the swelling tremendously. However, you should know that putting your ankle on a chair while you are seated does not count.

More tips for how to heal a sprained ankle fast include:

  • Supportive footwear: footwear with arch and heel support is good as it takes the pressure away from the injured ligaments and allows proper healing.
  • Foot paddling: this can be done in the early days of your injury. When you are lying down or seated, point your toes upwards then down repeatedly in the parts that do not have pain.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID): they are useful in preventing inflammation. Studies show that people who take medications heal faster. The pain and swelling will reduce as well.
  • Keep moving: do not overprotect the injured area. If it is too painful to bear weight, use a clutch for the first 24 hours then gradually increase the amount of weight you are carrying on that ankle until you can fully walk.
  • You should seek medical attention if the swelling does not decrease after 48 to 72 hours of the sprain.

What You Shouldn’t Do

  • HARM (Heat, Alcohol, Running, Massage): HARM will increase the damage by increasing the amount of blood flowing to the injured part, aggravate the inflammation and as a result, secondary damage may occur and causing more healing time.
  • Limp: If you cannot walk, do not limp. When you limp, you put more stress on other joints that might cause pain. When you get a sprain, try and walk as normally as possible even though it is slow. This will help your joint re-learn the correct way to move and will help speed up healing.

Rehab Exercises for Ankle Sprains

When the swelling reduces, you can go for rehabilitation. While you are at it, you should have 3 goals:

  1. Restore Flexibility and Motion

Move your ankle up and down gently. After 5-7 days, restore motion to the back part of the foot by turning your heel in and out. You should regain flexibility for the calf muscles as well. You can do this by facing the wall with one foot in front. With your hands on the wall, lean forward bending the front leg and keep the other leg straight. Ensure that both legs are on the floor. Lean till you feel a stretch and hold that position for 10 seconds. Switch legs and do the same.

  1. Restore Strength

Using a rubber tube for resistance, strengthening exercises can begin after 60-70% of the ankle has healed. One end of the rubber tube should be fixed on a stationery object and the other loop around your forefoot. Bend your knees while seated and keep your feet on the floor. Move your knee as little as possible when you’re putting your foot inward against the tube. Slowly return to the start position. Do the same with the other foot.

  1. Restore Balance

After your strength is back, you can restore balance by balancing on the hurt foot with your arms spread out to the sides. Soak the ankle in warm water before doing this. Once you are done, place ice to get rid of any irritation that might have occurred.

For more information, here is a video demonstration of 5 rehab exercises for ankle sprains:

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