Ankle sprains are one of the most common sports injuries that show up in urgent care centers and emergency rooms. In fact, about 25,000 people sprain an ankle every day in the USA. Jumping, quick movements and frequent changes in direction are the cause of most of these sprains and most of them happen on the playing field. Football, basketball, ultimate frisbee, soccer and volleyball are sports in which sprained ankles are quite common. Sprains also happen when people misstep off a curb or a stair. Walking on an uneven surface can also result in a sprain.
Unless the sprain is severe, most people will address the pain and as soon as it is gone, they will resume normal activities, even if the sprain is not fully healed. Unfortunately, this can have negative effects that may last for years.
Sprains Stretch Ligaments
When you sprain your ankle, you stretch the ligaments farther than their normal range of motion. Unlike a rubber band that resumes its original shape once it is stretched out, ligaments do not have that same level of elasticity. When a ligament is stretched beyond its limit, it does not resume its normal shape.
An ankle sprain can leave your ankle less stable in the direction in which the sprain occurred. When the ankle does not have enough time to fully heal, this instability can become worse, leaving you more prone to future sprains. This can lead to the development of chronic ankle instability.
Ankle Sprains Need Time to Heal
Rest, ice, compression and elevation, or RICE therapy, is the standard first line of attack in healing a sprained ankle. When the sprain is mild or low-grade, it may heal in one to three weeks if it is cared for properly. A moderate ankle sprain can take up to a month to be fully healed and more severe sprains may take as long as six months. Severe sprains may also require more extensive intervention.
If weight is put on the injured ankle too soon, the healing process could be delayed. Another consequence of rushing to get back on your feet too soon is increasing the risk for more sprains. Even though your ankle may feel fine, it is best to make sure it is fully healed before resuming your regular activities.
If your ankle is continuing to give you problems, visit Jonathan Glashow MD to evaluate whether further action is needed. With over 30 years of experience, he can access whether surgery is the right option for you.