How long for a sprained ankle to heal?

I apologize profusely for this, as I know that seeking medical advice here is a no-no, but I’m not so much seeking medical advice as asking whether or not I should do so.

Short version: I sprained my ankle two weeks ago, saw the doctor, have followed her advice. It still hurts pretty badly now. Should I see a doctor again about it?

Long version: About two weeks ago, I sprained my ankle pretty badly (that was a Monday). By Thursday it felt no better, so I went to the clinic. The X-rayed it, no fracture, but the doctor said she could see it was a bad sprain and the joint was being pulled apart or something. They wrapped it, gave me a splint to wear for 5-7 days whenever I was on my feet, told me to take ibuprofen for pain and try to stay off of it.

It’s been a week since then, and I’ve done everything they told me. They did not, however, give me an estimate as to when I should be pain-free, and I’m decidedly not there yet. It still hurts, not constantly, but an on-and-off aching of sorts. I honestly don’t know if I should see them again about it. I’m at home for thanksgiving right now, and don’t have a doctor here - I’d have to go to the ER if i wanted to get it checked out, so that’s not going to happen. When I get back to school, I could go back to the walk-in clinic in town, but i don’t know if it’s worth it. Would they tell me that I just need to wait and be patient? Or is pain this far along (after bountiful resting) a warning sign?

IME, it can take a considerable time to heal a badly-sprained ankle. I twisted my right one very badly nearly a year ago, and even though it is no longer sore on a daily basis, if I twist it wrong, even mildly, it can be rather painful even to this day. IIRC, it was about a month before it was no longer achy or sore from normal daily activities. YMMV, of course.

IANAD, but from my observation and experience with sprains and other soft tissue injuries, the healing can take anywhere from a few days until the rest of your life. Longer, even.

Good thing you got the x-ray to rule out a fracture. Someone I knew put that step off for about a month only to find out that there was a broken bone, half-healed and misaligned. Had to have it re-broken :eek: and it was another couple of months before it healed properly and in full.

IANAD, but I’d try and rest until you get to school. See a docor there and ask about physiotherapy options. Hopefully you have insurance that covers that.

I got a serious sprain several years ago. Did the same thing you did and took a few days to get to a clinic. The x-rayed it and said: “Good news, it isn’t broken. Bad news, its a really, really bad sprain and will probably hurt more.”

I was supposed to be on crutches for about six weeks, but after three I hated them so I used a cane. I had a slight limp and some discomfort for six months.

And I still have bad days – you can do nerve damage so that the foot doesn’t really know where it is in space. So it’s easy for me to turn it again when I’m walking on an uneven surface.

They don’t heal. They stop hurting, the swelling goes down and the joint will stabilize. Never trust the joint again, however. As I understand it, the tendon stretches a tad before it tears. The tear can heal, but the elasticity is more or less gone. My right ankle and knee are so bad now that I roll one or the other out of joint, experience flash of blinding pain (which I bet is mostly just fear), 5 minutes of discomfort, and maybe a day of stiffness–they don’t even sprain anymore!

This is obvious to me, but it ain’t always obvious to the person doing this
but if you continue the activity that caused the sprain and keep agravating it, it will take longer to heal. :smack:

Ditto what everybody else said. I sprained mine badly in October 1999 (actually chipped a bone in there somewhere), and it still gives me twinges occasionally when I’m not paying attention to uneven ground.

As long as you’re sure there’s no fracture, I wouldn’t worry too much. It’s just one of those things that can take a long time to heal.

Unfortunately, the injury that caused it was the strenous activity of walking - I must have stepped on a rock wrong or something, and suddenly was on the ground.

The doc didn’t give me crutches or anything - he said to take it easy, but I assumed that it was fine to walk on so long as I was wearing the splint.

So, basically, I’m hearing that this is normal, and I should just grin and bear it, and be careful when it stops hurting and I go back to working out?

NinjaChick - thanks so much for asking this - I am in the exact situation!
(November 10 was the day I decided to injure myself)

I didn’t see the doctor though - my pain actually went away within the first couple of days - but I was wondering how long I would be dealing with random swellings and bruising. I miss the gym, damn it!

Thanks for the info folks, though I don’t really like it!

If you’re not on crutches, it may not be that bad. I’ve done both of mine (one twice) and not been able to walk with out crutches for a few days. Toes and ankle not only swelled, but turned purple from the bleeding of the torn tissue.

Bad bad bad.

Not to belittle your injury in any way but it may not be as bad as it could be.

As people have said, it takes a long time to completely heal. Mine don’t hurt anymore in anyway, and don’t prevent me from doing any activites.

But… I’m pretty aware that I may have ‘weak’ ankles and just do not want it to happen again. Hurts like hell.

I’ve sprained both of them, at different times. Besides crutches, there is a “boot” thingy you can wear that is Velcro-strapped at your calves. You put it on with some space between your heel and the sole of the boot, and strap it on hard, and you can clomp around without crutches (or with them if desired).

This keeps your weight off the healing ankle parts. It’s worth it.

And RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Keep your weight off it; chill it with official ice packs or else a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a dishtowel; compress it just right with an elastic bandage; keep it at or above the level of your heart as much as convenient–say 20 minutes every hour or two. There are reasons for all of this.

YMMV if your doc says it may.

I walked on my worst one for 6 weeks, mistake, spent a year in the boot after that.

And guess what, shortly after I got out of the boot, I sprained the other one, and the medical professional said, “Yes, that is very common.” So why wasn’t I warned, if it’s common? Huh? &*#!! Suspected mechanism: joyful carelessness, plus possible protectiveness of the healing ankle to the extent I sacrificed the other during the stumble.

What everyone else said. Few weeks, months, rest of your life.

I sprained my right ankle very VERY badly as a teenager. The orthopedist had me coming to see him for about 5 months IIRC. It’s still a bit weak to this day, I doubt I’ll ever ice skate.

If you’re gonna hurt your foot, it’s really better to just break it IMHO.

While it is possible that your ankle might never quite feel the same as before the sprain, you can expect to regain full functionality, although it might need a little work.


**"… these symptoms will usually go away between one and four weeks after the accident.

The immediate tenderness can persist for one to four weeks, depending on the extent of the damage. Support-related pain can persist for up to three months.

With the correct approach, there will rarely be any lasting symptoms but a small number of people have ongoing pain and a feeling that their ankle is weak. If this is the case, further investigation may be needed to find the cause of any ongoing symptoms.

For a more severe sprain, you need physiotherapy and you should not do any sports training for at least six weeks…


…If the ankle is not allowed to mend properly, sportspeople often complain of loose joints or ligaments. This is almost always avoidable by patience and rehabilitation. It is better for sportspeople to be able to concentrate 100 per cent on their sport rather than on their fear of another injury due to lack of careful rehabilitation training."**

Given your age and martial arts background, a full recovery seems very likely. However, you can help yourself by not loading the ankle too early, and by appropriate physiotherapy and strength training. That means getting the advice of a specialist, preferably a sports injuries doctor or the like. Your martial arts coaches should be able to point you in the right direction.

A personal anecdote - I sprained my wrist rather badly several years ago, and to this day I do knuckle push-ups to strengthen that wrist and keep it stable. It gives me no problems at all unless I lapse with the pushups for a couple of weeks (Christmas laziness) after which it begins to twinge when I lift things.

“Up to six weeks” of pain for a sprained ankle is not that unusual. Much depends on how strenuous your current activities are. Use your ankle if you can – but remember you need to walk comfortably before you can jog, jog before you can run, and run before you consider returning to most sports.

Dr_Pap, MD

Mine was 10 or so years ago. I was in a cast and splints for 6 months, cane for a year after that. I’ve worn two follow up arthopedic boots for 4-5 weeks each.

Today, as I write this, it aches.

The usual caveat applies.
You get over the worst in six weeks.
It will pretty much be gone in six months.
You will be symptom free in six years barring any further injury.