Maybe you are a weekend warrior, or maybe you were just walking down the street. It only takes a misstep, and you have a sprain. It is one of the most common musculoskeletal injuries for people of all ages and physical conditions. Without an x-ray, it can be hard to tell whether you have a fracture or a sprain, so you should seek medical treatment after you have been injured.

What is a sprain?

A sprain is when ligaments are stretched or torn. Ligaments are the tough bands of fibrous tissue connecting two bones in your joints. A sprain may occur in your ankle, knee, wrist, or neck, but the most common location for a sprain is in your ankle.

To assist the doctor in developing a treatment plan, sprains are graded based on how badly the ligaments have been injured. There are three grades:

Grade 1 Sprain (Mild)

There are tiny tears and slight stretching in the ligament fibers. The ankle is swollen and slightly tender.

Grade 2 Sprain (Moderate)

The ligament is partially torn. The ankle is swollen and moderately tender. The doctor may observe an abnormal looseness in the joint.


Grade 3 Sprain (Severe)

The ligament is completely torn. The ankle is swollen and very tender. If moved in certain ways, the ankle may be extremely unstable.

Different grades of ankle sprains

Healing time

There is no specific time in which a sprained ankle will heal. The ligaments take at least six weeks to heal. However, the muscle strength, range of motion, and return to a normal function vary widely. Typical healing times, however, are 8-12 weeks. More severe sprains can take up to 16 weeks to heal.

Why does it take so long to heal?

Broken bones and torn ligaments are common injuries. However, people often say, “oh, it’s just a sprain,” but sometimes a sprain can be a big problem. Actually, it takes longer to recover from a sprain than from a broken bone. This is because of the slow process of ligament healing. The difference is, the bone has better access to blood than ligaments do. Therefore, it heals faster. Ligaments and tendons are made of fibrous connective tissue. It is relatively inelastic. It also does not have enough blood supply to bring nutrients and fluids which are necessary for repairing the damage to the injury site. As a result, the injured area swells.

Benefits of physical therapy

Physical therapy is an important part of your treatment plan. It can ease the pain, improve movement, help prevent permanent damage, and speed your return to normal function. Your physical therapist will use a variety of methods to achieve the desired goals. These may include:

  • Exercise equipment, such as treadmills and bicycles
  • Heat or cold treatments
  • Whirlpool baths, electrical stimulation, or massage
  • Balance training. When you can put full weight on your foot, these exercises will improve your balance and stability
  • Stretching exercises to increase your range of motion. These can also be performed at home
  • Functional therapy. When you can walk freely, your physical therapist may begin to work on routine activities you were doing before the injury
  • Specific rehabilitation, as needed to perform your job or play sports

People who have previously sprained an ankle may be at greater risk of spraining it again. This is particularly true for those who play certain sports, such as basketball or soccer. Some sprains are minor injuries that can be treated at home. However, if you have injured yourself and are experiencing pain, swelling, or inability to bear weight on a joint, such as the ankle, you should seek medical attention. Prompt and knowledgeable medical care can your sprain heal more quickly and effectively.

If you’re living anywhere in Northeastern Pennsylvania and you’ve been diagnosed with a Sprain, go to the phone and give the doctors of physical therapy at Cawley Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation a call at (570)208-2787. They’ll have you feeling like your old self again in no time!
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