You’ve just sprained your ankle. What should you do? How long should you ice? How much time should you take off?
Ankle sprains are very common injuries. They occur when the foot rolls inward after stepping on an uneven surface, which damages the ligaments on the outside of the ankle.
Ankle sprains are graded on a scale of one to three. Grade one means you’ve simply stretched or microscopically injured the ankle ligaments. Grade two means you’ve partly torn the ligaments, resulting in more swelling and stretching. Grade three, the most severe sprain, means the ligaments have torn completely, possibly even off the bone.
It’s never normal to have continuous joint pain accompanied by swelling, but don’t judge your ankle sprain’s seriousness by the amount of swelling. Some people have a fair amount of swelling but may have simply torn or broken a blood vessel or torn more scar tissue. Conversely, some of the most severe ankle sprains have more swelling in the foot and toes because the ankle ligaments and joint capsules are completely torn and the fluid essentially rolls downhill toward the toes.
One of the best indicators of the severity of an ankle sprain is the ability to put weight on the foot and to move the foot. If you are unable to put weight on an ankle sprain for at least a day, you should go see your doctor and get an X-ray to rule out a fracture.
Generally, a grade two sprain means you’ll need to take two to seven days off from participating in athletic activity. Grade three ankle sprains often require a cast for three to six weeks. Though grade three sprains are the least common, they can occur if you ignore repetitive grade one and grade two sprains.