Inside Your Ankle
The ankle is a complex structure made up of two joints and numerous muscles, ligaments, and tendons. While the ligaments hold the ankle bones together, the tendons attach your lower leg muscles to the bones of the foot and ankle. Twisting or rolling your foot can injure these ligaments and tendons, resulting in an ankle sprain or strain. People often use the terms “sprain” and “strain” interchangeably; however, there is a difference: sprains affect ligaments; strains affect tendons.
The Connection Between Sprain Severity and Recovery Time
The severity of the sprain—specifically, whether the affected ligaments are stretched or torn—significantly impacts the estimated time to recover. Sprains are classified into 3 grades that help make this determination.
Grades of Severity for Ankle Sprains
- Grade 1. A mild or Grade 1 ankle sprain indicates a ligament that's slightly stretched, but not torn. These injuries can cause swelling, tenderness, and pain and may take up to three weeks to heal.
- Grade 2. In a moderate or Grade 2 sprain, some of the ligament's collagen fibers are partially torn. People with these injuries may experience moderate swelling, pain, and tenderness and notice decreased ankle stability, range of motion, or function. A Grade 2 ankle sprain can require you to stay off your feet for three to six weeks.
- Grade 3. A severe or Grade 3 ankle sprain is characterized by a complete tear or rupture of the ligament, as well as symptoms such as intense pain and swelling, significant instability and loss of function, and inability to bear weight or walk. Fully recovering from a severe ankle sprain can take three to six months.
Treatments for a sprained ankle can vary dramatically depending on your sprain's severity or grade and how you respond to various therapies. Options can range from simple solutions such as resting, icing, or elevating your ankle; to immobilization with a splint or cast; to complete surgical reconstruction of the damaged ligament. When you visit our office in Long Island, our knowledgeable and experienced podiatrists will work with you to find treatments that are just right for your injuries and lifestyle.
Our Podiatrists Help Get You on Your Feet
Our skilled podiatrists are committed to helping patients get back on their feet as quickly and safely as possible. They offer tips that may help you achieve your recovery goals.
Tips for a Safe and Speedy Recovery
- Remember the RICE method. Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate (RICE) is a first-line treatment for ankle sprains that involves staying off your ankle, periodically icing the affected area, using an elasticized wrap to reduce swelling, and elevating your ankle to the height of your hip (if possible) during the first 48 hours after injury.
- See a podiatrist right away. Schedule an appointment with a podiatrist if the sprain is initially very painful or if a mild sprain doesn't start to improve after a couple days of RICE therapy.
- Ask about exercises. Your podiatrist can show you range-of-motion and stretching-and-strengthening exercises you can practice at home to aid your ankle sprain recovery.