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How long does it take to recover from a sprained ankle?

Dr. Greg W. Halbur, MD
Family Practitioner

The length of time it takes to recover from a sprained ankle depends on the extent of the injury. It can take from 5 days to 12 weeks for a sprained ankle to heal. There are three grades of ankle sprain, ranging from the least severe to a sprain resulting in permanent ankle instability. People can help an ankle sprain to heal faster by resting it as much as possible, wearing an ankle brace to control swelling and stability, applying ice packs and foot elevation.

How long it takes to recover from a sprained ankle can be from one week to one year. A follow-up visit can help doctors determine more about your recovery.

How long it will take to recover from a sprained ankle depends on the severity of the injury. Most ankle sprains are mild and will require nothing more than rest, elevation and over-the-counter analgesics. These sprains will often start to feel better within a few days to a week and resolve completely by six weeks. However, more severe ankle sprains, especially those involving multiple ligaments, may take many weeks to recover, sometimes three months or longer for a full recovery. These injuries may be so painful that the person will need to use crutches for a few days to weeks and may be unable to return to regular activities for longer than that.

It usually takes 5 to 14 days to recover from a grade one ankle sprain. This is when slight stretching and damage occurs to the ligaments. With a grade one sprain, there is slight instability, pain, swelling, joint stiffness and trouble walking.

Grade two sprains can take 4 to 6 weeks to heal. This involves partial tearing of the ligaments. Signs of a grade two sprain include instability, moderate to severe pain, swelling, stiffness and possible bruising.

Grade three sprains can take 8 to 12 weeks to heal. This is a complete tear of the ligament. With grade three sprains, there is a lot of instability within the joint, severe pain when the injury occurs and no pain after injury, severe swelling and excessive bruising.

This answer provided for NATA by the California University of Pennsylvania Athletic Training Education Program.

Dr. Andrew S. Levy, MD
Sports Medicine Specialist

Rate of recovery depends on severity of sprain, optimal treatment, therapy and whether there was any additional damage to the joint surface. Most sprains recover by 6 weeks with good treatment.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.