How long does a sprained ankle stay swollen?

How Long Does a Sprained Ankle Stay Swollen? | Immediate Care Westmont


Sprained ankles are a common injury that can occur during physical activity or accidents. When you sprain your ankle, the ligaments that hold the bones together stretch or tear, causing pain, swelling, and difficulty in walking or bearing weight on the affected foot.

One of the most common concerns for individuals with a sprained ankle is how long the swelling will last. In this article, we will discuss the duration of ankle swelling after a sprain and factors that may affect the healing process. We will also provide some tips on managing the swelling and promoting a speedy recovery.

Table of Contents

  • Why does an ankle swell after a sprain?
  • How long does ankle swelling last after a sprain?
  • Factors that can affect the duration of ankle swelling
  • Treatment options for reducing ankle swelling
  • When to see a healthcare provider
  • Tips for a speedy recovery
  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
  • Conclusion

Why does an ankle swell after a sprain?

When you sprain your ankle, the ligaments that connect the bones of the ankle joint stretch or tear. This injury leads to bleeding and inflammation in the surrounding tissues. The body’s natural response to injury is to increase blood flow to the affected area, resulting in swelling.

The swelling occurs as a result of fluid and white blood cells accumulating in the injured tissues. This process is part of the body’s healing mechanism and aims to protect the injured area from further damage.

How long does ankle swelling last after a sprain?

The duration of ankle swelling after a sprain can vary depending on the severity of the injury and individual factors. In general, mild to moderate sprains may cause swelling for about 1 to 2 weeks. However, more severe sprains or complications can prolong the swelling for several weeks or even months.

It’s important to note that every individual heals at their own pace, and various factors can influence the duration of ankle swelling. These factors include:

1. Severity of the sprain:

The severity of the sprained ankle can impact the duration of swelling. Grade 1 sprains involve mild stretching of the ligaments, grade 2 sprains involve partial tearing, and grade 3 sprains involve complete ligament tears. Grade 3 sprains often take longer to heal and may result in more significant swelling.

2. Rest and elevation:

Proper rest and elevation of the affected ankle can help reduce swelling and promote healing. Elevating the ankle above heart level can assist in draining excess fluid and reducing inflammation.

3. Ice therapy:

Applying ice to the swollen ankle can help constrict blood vessels, reduce inflammation, and alleviate pain. Ice should be applied for 15-20 minutes every 2-3 hours during the initial stages of the injury.

4. Compression:

Using compression bandages or braces can help reduce swelling by providing support to the injured ankle and preventing fluid buildup. However, it’s essential not to wrap the ankle too tightly, as this can restrict blood flow.

5. Immobilization:

In some cases, healthcare providers may recommend immobilizing the ankle with a brace, splint, or cast to prevent further injury and promote healing. Immobilization can help control swelling by limiting movement and stress on the injured ligaments.

6. Rehabilitation exercises:

Once the acute swelling has subsided, rehabilitation exercises prescribed by a healthcare provider or physical therapist can help strengthen the ankle, improve range of motion, and prevent future injuries. Gradually introducing weight-bearing exercises can also aid in reducing swelling.

Treatment options for reducing ankle swelling

There are several treatment options available to reduce ankle swelling after a sprain:

1. R.I.C.E method:

The R.I.C.E method stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. This approach is commonly recommended for immediate first aid following a sprained ankle. Resting the affected ankle, applying ice, using compression bandages, and elevating the foot can help minimize swelling and alleviate pain.

2. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs):

Over-the-counter NSAIDs such as ibuprofen or naproxen sodium can help reduce inflammation and provide pain relief. It’s important to follow the recommended dosage and consult a healthcare provider if there are any contraindications or concerns.

3. Physical therapy:

In cases of moderate to severe ankle sprains, physical therapy may be recommended to promote healing and restore function. A physical therapist can guide you through specific exercises and techniques to reduce swelling, improve strength, and enhance mobility.

4. Immobilization devices:

Depending on the severity of the sprain, healthcare providers may prescribe immobilization devices such as braces, splints, or casts to protect the injured ankle and minimize swelling. These devices provide stability and support during the healing process.

When to see a healthcare provider

While mild ankle sprains can often be managed at home with self-care measures, it is advisable to seek medical attention if you experience:

  • Severe pain or inability to bear weight on the affected foot
  • Significant swelling that persists or worsens after a few days
  • Numbness or tingling in the foot or toes
  • Visible deformity or joint instability
  • Recurrent ankle sprains

A healthcare provider will be able to evaluate the severity of the injury, rule out any fractures or ligament tears, and provide appropriate treatment recommendations.

Tips for a speedy recovery

Here are some tips to promote a speedy recovery and minimize ankle swelling after a sprain:

  • Follow the R.I.C.E method (rest, ice, compression, elevation) during the first few days after the injury.
  • Avoid putting weight on the injured ankle until advised by a healthcare professional.
  • Perform rehabilitation exercises as prescribed by a healthcare provider or physical therapist.
  • Gradually reintroduce weight-bearing activities once the swelling and pain have subsided.
  • Wear appropriate footwear with good ankle support during physical activity.
  • Avoid high-impact activities or sports that may strain the healing ligaments.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Can I walk on a sprained ankle?

Walking on a sprained ankle depends on the severity of the injury. Mild sprains may allow for limited walking with the use of crutches, while more severe sprains may require complete rest and immobilization. It’s best to consult a healthcare provider for guidance.

2. How long does it take for a sprained ankle to heal?

The healing time for a sprained ankle can vary depending on the severity of the injury. Mild sprains may heal within a few weeks, while more severe sprains can take several months. Individual factors and adherence to treatment play a role in the healing process.

3. Should I wrap my sprained ankle at night?

It is generally recommended to remove any compression bandages or braces before going to bed to allow proper blood flow and prevent discomfort. However, follow the advice of your healthcare provider as they may suggest using a brace or splint for support during sleep.


Ankle swelling is a common symptom following a sprained ankle. The duration of swelling can vary based on the severity of the sprain and individual factors. Proper rest, ice therapy, compression, elevation, and rehabilitation exercises can aid in reducing swelling and promoting a speedy recovery. If you experience severe pain, persistent swelling, or other concerning symptoms, it is advisable to seek medical attention for a comprehensive evaluation and appropriate treatment.

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