April 11, 2019 4 min read
As a quick summary, your recovery time for being able to walk around without pain depends on the grade of the sprain. For example, a grade 1 ankle sprain will typically take 1 week, a grade 2 sprain will normally heal within 2 to 3 weeks and a grade 3 will normally heal within 4 to 6 weeks.
However, a number of other factors will contribute to the speed of recovery including how well the injury is looked after and the severity of the initial starting damage and a much longer healing time must be allowed if your aim is to return to playing sports.
There are many contributing factors which determine how fast you will recover from your sprained ankle. The Ultimate Guide to Ankle Sprains looks at ankle sprains as a whole whereas here we're going to focus on the timescales involved for the different grades of ankle sprains.
Please note that we will give estimations on recovery time based upon two factors. The time where a person can return to work vs the time that a person will feel able to compete in higher impact sports such as running, football and rugby.
You probably don't feel this way now, but if you've been lucky enough to suffer from a grade 1 ankle sprained ankle then you're healing time is likely to be a lot faster than the other two grades.
The good news is that the likelihood is that you will be back at work within a week. You may struggle to run for the bus and if your job requires a lot of walking around then being stood on your feet all day will most likely cause you to feel discomfort towards the back end of the day.
If you are hoping to get back to playing sports after a grade 1 sprain then even though you'll be back at work walking around like normal your recovery time for sports will likely be a little longer at up to 4 weeks before you feel strong and stable enough to compete.
With a grade 2 ankle sprain much more of the ligament fibres are torn and you'll likely be experiencing a lot of pain and swelling. Remember to keep following the recommendations of PRICE and look after yourself, if you feel that you need to get back on your feet sooner then make sure you wear a reinforcing ankle support to give your ligaments the best chance of recovery. Without wearing an ankle support you may find that by rushing back you further damage your ankle and actually setback the healing process.
The more severe tearing of the ankle ligament symptomatic of a grade 2 sprain means that it's likely you, unfortunately, may be out of work for between 3 and 4 weeks before your ankle feels strong enough to walk on it.
As your ankle returns to full strength consider wearing a compression sleeve to provide swelling control throughout the day and give you additional confidence as you walk around.
When looking forward to returning to higher levels of activity its advisable to give yourself 6 to 8 weeks before a full return to strength. You'll probably be able to return to light training a little earlier, however, care should be taken not to aggravate the injury further by pushing yourself too much. You could end up over-exerting and upsetting the newly formed scar tissue which would add further time on to your recovery and mean you are out of action for much longer than necessary.
Ligaments are tough fibrous bands which connect your ankle together and allow it the full rotation of movement, but an extreme rupture to these ligaments is called a grade 3 sprain and this can be a serious setback putting you out of action for an extended period of time.
It is rare for a person to suffer from a grade 3 ankle sprain just by 'going over' on their ankle, and generally, one of the severest types of ankle injury's is reserved for those who injured while playing sports where a violent movement of the ankle causes extreme damage to the ligaments.
If you are extremely unlucky enough to have suffered this type of injury then expect to be on sick from work for at least 4 to 6 weeks before you feel strong enough to return. Even when you do, you'll probably find that you feel the odd niggle in your ankle after a long day on your feet and you may rely on wearing your ankle support for up to 3 months after your initial injury.
It's a sad fact of a grade 3 sprained ankle that you're going to face a significant length of time of the sidelines. While you should be walking around within 4 to 6 weeks you're going to find that your ankle remains too weak to really be effective at taking the inevitable bangs and knocks which go along with playing sports or being altogether more active.
Expect to be out of action for between 8 and 12 weeks and this length of time could be even longer if the correct precautions aren't taken. Look after your ankle in the early stages of recovery and allow the proper rest and recuperation for the ligaments to begin the repair job in earnest.
Be mindful of taking on too much too soon, as getting back into light training too early could really set you back. We see this all the time with injury prone sportspeople who rush back into their respective fields and find themselves back out again after aggravating an injury that wasn't given the correct amount of time to recover.
Even when you are back fighting fit, it is advisable to wear ankle protection during your activity and you may find for up to a period of 4 to 5 months after the initial injury you need to protect your ankle with additional reinforcement otherwise you may feel unsteady on your foot or have the feeling that it may give way on you.
Your next steps are to read a more comprehensive guide on ankle sprains.
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