Did you step off a curb weird or maybe step into a hole? Ouch! Most ankle sprains are an inversion sprain, which overstretches the outside of the ankle joint. The most commonly affected ligaments in the lateral complex are: Anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL) and/or the calcaneofibular ligament (CFL). The Posterior talofibular ligament (PTFL) is also part of the lateral complex but not as frequently injured.

Sprained Ankle Recovery Time

There are different types of ankle sprains. Grades one and two are a micro-tearing of the above ligaments where as grade three is a complete disruption to the ligament and affect the syndesmotic juncture (a fancy way of saying the joint). All of these can greatly affect the recovery/healing time with grades I and II healing much faster, 6-8 weeks, and up to several months for more severe injuries.

Man in cast from a rolled ankle

What Does an Ankle Sprain Look Like?

Depending on the grade, you might have some bruising, swelling, pain at rest and/or with walking. Your foot and ankle can feel stiff and have less range of motion.

Is a swollen ankle a Bad Thing?

Swelling is not bad! Patients often think that swelling is a bad thing, but it's actually part of our body's natural healing response. The swelling occurs because of a cascade of the inflammatory response. All these healing cells rush to the area to help repair the damage. This is swelling! Swelling earns its bad name when it extends past those initial 72 hours because it can extend pain and decrease range of motion.

Ice or Heat? Heat or Ice?

The first 48-72 hours after your injury, ice! After that, heat! Ice will deoxygenate your tissues which we don't want to do.

Sports physical therapy for a sprained ankle

Seek out a sports physical therapist for orthopedic rehabilitation, even if you aren't an athlete! A physical therapist will perform an evaluation to assess the foot and ankle. It's pretty clear that you injured your ankle, but they will want to determine the severity of the injury. In the case of a more significant injury, they likely will refer you back to your doctor for imaging if that hasn't been performed yet.

After a thorough assessment, they will gently work on decreasing inflammation and promote early range of motion of the joint. As you progress through therapy this can also look like fascial release to other surrounding tissues, such as the gastrocneumius and soleus muscles if they have tightened up.

What Next? Your therapist will take you through exercises to challenge your balance and stability of the ankle joint. They may also work on strengthening other muscles up the kinetic chain like your hips! Finally, they will focus recovery on return to sport when appropriate.

Physical therapy for a sprained ankle in Columbia, Maryland

If you have a sprained ankle and are in need of a physical therapist, a sports physical therapist, or orthopedic rehabilitation, reach out to our office today!

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