How Long Does a Sprained Ankle Stay Swollen: Your Comprehensive Guide

logo by Editorial Staff | Updated on September 23rd, 2023

When you sprain your ankle, one of the first symptoms you’ll notice is the swelling. And let’s be honest—it can be more than just a little uncomfortable. But you might find yourself asking: how long will this inconvenience stick around? Is there anything you can do to expedite the healing process? With years of medical research and practical know-how behind us, we have compiled this detailed guide to help you understand the journey of a sprained ankle—from immediate swelling to eventual recovery.

The Initial Swelling: What Happens Right After You Sprain Your Ankle

In medical terms, acute swelling is the swelling that transpires within 24 hours post-injury. Now, if you observe swelling within the first two hours, you may be dealing with hemarthrosis—a condition that warrants an immediate doctor’s visit.

Ankle sprain, swelling in the ankle and blue color of the skin, leg on white towel.

Most swelling starts to diminish naturally within two weeks, even in the case of severe sprains. However, if the swelling is extensive from the outset, you might have a longer recovery ahead. It’s not uncommon for people to experience both swelling and pain for 2 to 3 days following the injury, to the extent that walking can become a struggle and crutches might become a necessity.

The First Few Days: Managing The Swelling

Swelling will usually start to decrease naturally within the first two weeks, even with more pronounced sprains. However, should the swelling be severe after the initial onset, you may be looking at 3 to 6 months for the ankle to fully heal. To manage swelling in the first 24 to 72 hours, ice your ankle intermittently. This can reduce swelling effectively and aid in a speedier recovery.

The Two-Week Mark: When Should You Be Concerned?

By and large, most ankle sprains heal with standard RICE therapy—rest, ice, compression, and elevation—within 2 to 12 weeks. A swelling duration of four to six weeks is generally considered normal for a sprained ankle. Yet, if you find that your swelling persists after three months, consider it a red flag. Even if the pain has subsided, persistent swelling could indicate an underlying issue that needs further medical attention.

When to Seek Medical Attention

Managing a sprained ankle at home is often possible, but some scenarios require professional intervention. If you have existing health conditions or take medications that could interfere with your healing, consult your doctor before attempting any home remedies. Should your sprain remain severe or show little improvement after a week, a medical consultation is advised. Diagnostic tools like X-rays can rule out fractures, while a thorough physical examination can confirm the severity of the ligament damage. Lack of appropriate treatment can leave your ankle vulnerable to future injuries.

DIY Remedies: How to Reduce Ankle Swelling at Home

Epsom salt baths may be useful in alleviating swelling, as they are believed to draw out toxins from the body. Cold compresses and ice packs can also be effective in bringing down swelling.

Modifying your diet can help, too. Lowering your sodium intake can prevent your body from retaining water, which contributes to swelling. Elevating your feet, drinking water, and minimizing salt in your meals can collectively help in reducing swelling.

Cold water soaks can offer relief, and for those looking for medicinal solutions, over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be a go-to remedy.

Supplementing your treatment with elements like magnesium may also help manage swelling effectively.

We hope this guide has provided you with a thorough understanding of ankle sprains, from the initial swelling to long-term recovery. Knowing what to expect and how to manage it can make the healing process far less daunting.


Editorial Staff

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