Sprain Healing Time: Why Does it Take So Long?

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.

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.

These injuries take a notoriously long amount of time to heal, and you will need the assistance of a proven medical provider to make sure the recovery process goes off without a hitch. That is why you should call us at Cawley Physical Therapy and read more about how we can help you with your sprain.

The Different Grades of Sprains

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 of sprains that patients should know:

  • Grade 1 Sprain: These mild tears occur when the ligament fibers are slightly stretched. Symptoms include swelling in the ankle and tenderness in the impacted area.
  • Grade 2 Sprain: A moderate ligament tear is a Grade 2 sprain. The ankle is swollen and moderately tender as a result of the injury, and the doctor may observe an abnormal looseness in the joint.
  • Grade 3 Sprain: In extreme cases of ankle sprain, the ligament is completely torn. The ankle is swollen and very tender and, if moved in certain ways, the ankle may prove to be extremely unstable.

The different grades of an ankle sprain.

Why Does it Take So Long to Heal?

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.

Broken bones and torn ligaments are common injuries, but they can be a big problem. Due to the slow process of ligament healing, it takes longer to recover from a sprain than from a broken bone. The bone has better access to blood than ligaments do. Ligaments and tendons are made of fibrous connective tissue that is relatively inelastic. They also do 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.

A person with a swollen ankle that is not painful.

Benefits of Physical Therapy for Sprains

Specialized physical therapy for sprains 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:

  • Balance training
  • Functional therapy
  • Heat or cold treatments
  • Whirlpool baths, electrical stimulation, or massage
  • Exercise equipment, such as treadmills and bicycles
  • Stretching exercises to increase your range of motion
  • Specific rehabilitation, as needed to perform your job or play sports

The RICE method that is used to reduce ankle swelling and pain.

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.

Sprain Healing Time is Easier with Cawley Physical Therapy

If you’re living anywhere in Northeast Pennsylvania and you have been diagnosed with a sprain, go to the phone and give the doctors at Cawley Physical Therapy a call at 570-208-2787. They’ll have you feeling like your old self again in no time! Sign up for one of our limited free discovery visits to get started.