An ankle injury or sprain can be debilitating, from colliding with your friend while playing ultimate frisbee, tripping over the vacuum cleaner cord while cleaning the house, or slipping on the stairs at work.

Ankle injury treatment can often provide relief within a few days. However, the big question is, how do you make an ankle injury heal faster?

In the United States, primary care providers commonly encounter musculoskeletal injuries as the most frequently observed type of injury; over 23,000 people daily require medical attention for ankle sprains and injuries.

Sprains are common in the workplace, where trips, slips, and falls account for a third of all personal injuries.

About Ankle Sprains

How do you make an ankle injury heal faster?

Ankle sprains are graded into different categories, and each ankle sprain grade will usually have a different time frame on how soon it’s safe to return to activity. Your type of activity is also a factor, as sports that involve turning/twisting will require greater strength and stability than, for example, hiking or jogging.

Grades Of Ankle Sprain:

  • Grade 1 sprains are light sprains that often allow a return to sport in 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Ankle sprains of Grade 2 indicate more harm to the ligament and might require around 4-6 weeks to recover and return to sports.
  • Grade 3 injuries are more severe and usually involve full tearing of the ligament and potential bone fracture. Recovering from grade 3 ankle sprains could take three months or more.

These time frames can differ depending on the specifics of each situation.

Before you return to activity, whatever grade of sprain it is, you must undergo rehab to ensure a safe transition to your activity and minimize the risk of re-injury. With any ankle sprain, many core areas must be trained to a sufficient level appropriate to the demands of the activity/sport you engage in. The demands of running, hiking, trail running, and soccer vary in how they stress the ankle joint. Your therapist must ensure you follow through to the end stages of rehab, as returning too soon to your activity may result in re-injury.

How Do You Make an Ankle Injury Heal Faster?

Always Follow Your Doctor’s Orders

Some ankle injuries are mild, and you can heal them at home without special treatment. Others need direct medical treatment before they can start at-home recovery. After an injury, you should always see your doctor and have it examined if the injury is severe or the damage is worse.

There are several ways to make an ankle injury heal faster.

From there, do everything your doctor suggests. If your ankle is broken or dislocated, your doctor may need to set it carefully and then immobilize it before you’re safe to go home and start self-care. You may need a cast or a fully immobilizing brace if the ankle is fractured. You may need an antibiotic prescription if an external injury tears the skin or causes bad enough internal damage. Doctors also sometimes prescribe over-the-counter medications to patients for at-home recovery.

Use RICE For Home Treatment

RICE means Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. This simple combination is the key to encouraging your ankle to heal quickly. Essentially, it comes down to inflammation control, blood promotion, and keeping off the ankle so it can heal.


Rest is the easiest part of the equation to understand and the hardest to achieve. We live active lives, and keeping off an ankle is hard. Whether you’re going to work, making dinner, or even reaching for the too-far remote, we’ll often forget and step down on an injured ankle. Depending on the injury, you must give your ankle time to heal by staying off it for a few days or weeks.

Use crutches if you have to, and let the compression of a brace or cast remind you that the ankle is a no-go for taking steps.

Ice / Heat

The I in RICE stands for Ice, but the complete method starts with ice and ends with heat. Why? Inflammation and blood flow.

When your ankle is first injured, it swells up with blood. This is good at first; it protects the wound and promotes healing. However, too much inflammation causes tenderness, immobility, and a greater chance of reinjuring the ankle or healing in an inflexible state. You need to bring down the blood flow to the ankle with compression and cold to reduce the inflammation.

Apply ice or cold packs wrapped in towels. Hold ice to your ankle for 30-minute periods every two hours. Use elastic bandages or compression braces continuously to reduce swelling and pain.

The RICE method can help with an ankle sprain.

After the ankle has stopped swelling, heat should be applied instead. Heat relaxes the muscles and tendons, easing pain and making recovery exercises more possible. The heat also promotes blood flow. After the swelling has subsided, this effect is helpful and can accelerate the healing process.


Compression is a smart recovery decision for two reasons. First, compression prevents swelling from getting too bad. When there’s nowhere for your ankle to swell into, the blood has to disperse instead of puffing up around the injury. Compression can help you reduce and control swelling throughout your recovery and any time swelling occurs in the future.

Compression can also be vital in holding your ankle in place as you recover. Softer than a rigid brace but more supportive than a shoe, a compression bandage can hold your ankle at a specific angle and provide padding to help prevent additional bumps as you heal. Even an elastic bandage can temporarily support and cushion your ankle.


Elevating your ankle reduces blood flow during a critical time and prevents blood from pooling. Slow blood flow near an injury can result in clots, especially near your feet where gravity is not on your side. Elevating your ankle promotes blood to flow back up your leg away from the injury and can discourage inflammation.

The longer you need to rest and immobilize your ankle, the more important elevation is for blood health. Elevation keeps your blood moving away from the ankle and back up the leg. You want your thighs at about 45-degree angle and the knees at 15 to 30 degrees. This will place your feet several inches above your heart but at a different level for each person based on height and leg length.

Elevate for 30 minutes every 2 hours or as needed during immediate recovery and long rest periods.

When To Use Crutches And Braces

One of the most important aspects of ankle healing is using a brace. Whether you suffered a minor sprain or a serious fracture, your ankle must be immobilized, supported, and protected during healing. But you may also need to keep completely off your foot during the early stages of recovery. For this, you will need crutches to get around. Fortunately, properly sized and padded crutches can be fun and even faster than normal walking.

If your doctor says, “Stay off the foot,” then crutches are probably necessary. You can also choose to use crutches to increase rest and accelerate healing.

Braces, however, are helpful at every stage of healing. But the right brace can change over time. An immobilizing brace can protect your ankle and hold it in the correct position for healing a severe injury. Hinged braces can allow you to move around while keeping your ankle within a safe range of motion. Structured or padded braces can help hold your ankle firmly and apply compression.

Stretching And Recovery Exercises

Braces are helpful while your ankle injury heals.

As your ankle recovers, stretching and exercises become very important. Stretching ensures that the new tendon or muscle tissue does not grow back short and easy to tear. When you stretch, you ensure that the new tissue is long and flexible so that you can get back to normal activity quickly.

Strength exercises also contribute to your recovery. As new tissue grows to heal the damage, you can train it to be strong and to pump fresh blood through the area as you stretch. Talk with your doctor and partner with a physical therapist to stretch out and exercise your ankle safely during recovery.

Getting Back To Work After An Ankle Injury

Whether you’re missing a favorite workout or want to return to work without re-injury, it’s important to know when it’s safe to return to normal ankle function. Keep your doctor in the loop and treat your ankle well. As the pain fades, stretch and exercise, with the help of your physical therapist, to help your ankle regain full function.

When you no longer feel pain and your ankle comfortably holds weight, wait another two weeks before doing anything strenuous like leaping, climbing, or carrying heavy objects. Get final approval from your doctor to approve a full range of exercise and labor, and then you’re good to go.

Recovering from an ankle injury can seem like it takes forever. The best thing you can do for yourself is treat the ankle carefully while at home. Use the RICE method and a robust diet to help your body heal quickly. Use crutches and braces to protect your ankle and keep weight off during recovery. And remember to stretch and do strength exercises with your physical therapist as your healing completes.

Do you need faster relief from ankle injuries? Please reach out to us today!