How to Recover Faster from an Ankle Sprain

October 27, 2021

How to Recover Faster from an Ankle Sprain

A simple misstep can lead to a sprained ankle. Ankle sprains are one of the most common musculoskeletal injuries in people of all ages and lifestyles. It’s estimated that around 2 million Americans experience an ankle sprain each year.

The injury occurs when one or several of the ligaments in the ankle are torn or stretched. This causes pain, swelling, and difficulty walking.

Instead of seeking medical attention, many people choose to treat a sprained ankle on their own. While this is okay in some instances, if you're experiencing more than minor pain and swelling, it's important to be seen by a doctor.

Without proper treatment and rehabilitation, a severely sprained ankle may not heal properly. This increases the risk of loss of stability and motion, which in turn increases the risk of recurrent sprains in the future.

Ankle sprains 101

The ankle consists of four major ligaments. Ligaments are bands of fibrous tissue that connect bones together.

The most common ankle sprain is a lateral ankle sprain, also known as an inversion injury. This occurs when the foot rolls inward, which damages the outer ankle ligaments.

Less common sprains include medial and syndesmotic sprains. A medial ankle sprain which affects the inner ankle ligaments. This type of sprain is often caused by a sudden twisting or turning motion, or a sudden inward roll of the ankle.

A syndesmotic sprain is caused by an injury to the tibiofibular ligaments, which join the tibia and fibula. These sprains are most common in contact sports and increase the risk of chronic ankle instability and subsequent sprains.

Ankle sprain severity

Ankle sprains range in severity. This is measured by the amount of damage as well as how unstable the joint has become due to the injury. The more severe the ankle sprain, the longer the recovery period.


Damage to ligaments


Recovery time

Grade 1

Minimal stretching with no tearing

Mild swelling, pain and tenderness but no bruising. No joint instability and the ankle can still bear weight.

1-3 weeks

Grade 2

Partial tear

Moderate swelling, pain, and tenderness. Bruising is possible. Mild to moderate ankle instability with some loss of range of motion. Pain when walking.

3-6 weeks

Grade 3

Full tear or rupture

Severe swelling, pain, tenderness, and bruising. Notable instability along with the loss of function and range of motion. Inability to walk or bear weight.

Several months

Treatment options for mild and moderate ankle sprains

Grade 3 (severe) ankle sprains require medical attention immediately, as there is serious damage that needs to be addressed by a professional. If you’re experiencing symptoms of a mild (grade 1) or moderate (grade 2) ankle sprains, a trip to the doctor isn’t usually warranted.

The first step in treating a sprained ankle is to decrease pain and swelling while also protecting the ligaments from further damage. The classic rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) regimen is the best place to start.

If you have severe pain and swelling in your ankle, rest it as much as possible for the first 24-48 hours after the injury. Soak your foot and ankle in cold water, or apply an ice pack, for 15-20 minutes three times a day. This should help reduce pain and swelling.

The next step is to stabilize your ankle and to further reduce swelling. Compress the ankle using an ACE bandage or some other type of elastic wrap.

When sitting, elevate your ankle to the height of your hip, or as high as you comfortably can. Elevation also helps with reducing swelling.

In the first 24 hours after the injury, avoid:

  • Heat rubs
  • Hot packs
  • Hot showers
  • Excessive walking

All of these will increase swelling and extend your recovery time.

Avoid prolonged immobilization

Up until recently, conventional wisdom suggested that those with a sprained ankle should avoid any type of weight bearing activity for several weeks. However, recent research suggests that the sooner the patient is weight bearing, the better (and faster) the outcomes will be.

Putting weight on the ankle sooner causes functional stress, which stimulates the growth of stronger replacement collagen. This is why it’s important to begin functional rehab as soon as possible. For grade 1 and grade 2 sprains, rehab can begin immediately, because the ankle is considered stable.

Functional rehabilitation is a must

The recipe for healing from a sprained ankle involves mobilization, chiropractic manipulation, and rehab exercises that are designed to strengthen the joint. This combination of treatments is extremely effective, which means that patients recover faster and can return to their daily lives much sooner.

Proper rehabilitation after an ankle sprain is crucial to maintain range of motion and function. When the ankle ligaments heal improperly, there’s an increased risk of persistent pain and swelling, along with chronic joint instability and impacted range of motion.

Rehab should focus on four main factors, including:

  • Range of motion
  • Progressive muscle-strengthening
  • Proprioceptive training
  • Activity specific training

While many of these factors can be improved at home, it’s best to seek help from a professional, such as a chiropractor.

How a chiropractor can help with a sprained ankle

A chiropractor can help you recover from an ankle sprain by reducing pain and swelling while speeding up recovery time. Studies have found that patients with a sprained ankle experience less pain after adding chiropractic care to their treatment regimen.

Chiropractic care focuses on improving range of motion and mobility with adjustments and strengthening exercises.

An ankle sprain can cause a misalignment within the joint. By adjusting the ankle, everything can be put back into its proper place.

Strengthening exercises improve ankle mobility. This involves building up the muscles around the ankle, which improves joint stability, strength, and mobility.

Heal with the help of Align Integrated Medical

Want to get back on your feet sooner after spraining your ankle? Align Integrated Medical helps patients to solve their health problems with fundamental medicine. This involves a combination of chiropractic, regenerative medicine, and massage therapy to fix the “why” versus the “what.”

With the help of our team, you'll not only heal from a sprained ankle, but strengthen the area to minimize the risk of the same injury in the future.

Chad Woolner
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