How Long Does a Rolled Ankle Take to Heal?

Rolled Ankle
Rolled Ankle

A rolled ankle, also known as an ankle sprain, is a common injury that occurs when the ligaments supporting the ankle are stretched or torn, often resulting in pain, swelling, and instability. Among those experiencing this discomfort, a common question arises: How long does it take for a rolled ankle to heal? While the typical healing time varies depending on the severity of the sprain, it generally ranges from a few days to several weeks. However, numerous factors, such as the extent of the injury, the individual’s healing capacity, and adherence to proper treatment and rehabilitation, can significantly influence the healing process. Understanding these factors is essential for effectively managing a rolled ankle and promoting a successful recovery. We will delve into these details further at the end of this article to provide comprehensive insights into the healing journey of a rolled ankle.

What is a Rolled Ankle?

A rolled ankle, also referred to as an ankle sprain, occurs when the ligaments surrounding the ankle joint are overstretched or torn due to sudden twisting or turning movements. This can lead to pain, swelling, and instability in the affected ankle.

Types of Rolled Ankles

Understanding the types of rolled ankles involves categorizing them based on the direction of the roll and the severity of the injury. Here’s a detailed breakdown:

1. Types Based on Direction of the Roll

a. Inversion Ankle Sprain

  • Description: The most common type of ankle sprain, where the foot rolls inward, causing damage to the lateral ligaments (on the outside of the ankle).
  • Affected Ligaments: Anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL), calcaneofibular ligament (CFL), and posterior talofibular ligament (PTFL).
  • Common Causes: Sports activities, stepping on uneven surfaces, sudden change of direction.

b. Eversion Ankle Sprain

  • Description: Less common, where the foot rolls outward, causing damage to the medial ligaments (on the inside of the ankle).
  • Affected Ligaments: Deltoid ligament.
  • Common Causes: High-impact trauma, sports injuries, direct blow to the outside of the ankle.

c. High Ankle Sprain (Syndesmotic Sprain)

  • Description: Involves injury to the ligaments that connect the tibia and fibula (the syndesmosis).
  • Affected Ligaments: Anterior inferior tibiofibular ligament (AITFL), posterior inferior tibiofibular ligament (PITFL), and interosseous membrane.
  • Common Causes: High-impact sports, twisting injury with the foot planted and the leg rotating outward.

2. Types Based on Severity

a. Grade I (Mild)

  • Description: Minor stretching or microscopic tearing of the ligament fibers.
  • Symptoms: Mild pain and tenderness, slight swelling, little to no instability, minor difficulty in walking.
  • Treatment: RICE method, over-the-counter pain relievers, and gentle exercises.

b. Grade II (Moderate)

  • Description: Partial tear of the ligament, moderate injury.
  • Symptoms: Moderate pain, swelling, and bruising, some instability, difficulty bearing weight, reduced range of motion.
  • Treatment: RICE method, possibly immobilization with a brace, physical therapy, and gradual return to activities.

c. Grade III (Severe)

  • Description: Complete tear or rupture of the ligament.
  • Symptoms: Severe pain, significant swelling and bruising, marked instability, inability to bear weight.
  • Treatment: RICE method, immobilization, possible surgical intervention, extensive physical therapy.

3. Special Types

a. Recurrent Ankle Sprains

  • Description: Multiple sprains over time, leading to chronic instability.
  • Common Causes: Weak or previously injured ligaments, inadequate rehabilitation, genetic predisposition.

b. Complicated Ankle Sprains

  • Description: Involves additional injuries such as fractures, tendon injuries, or dislocations.
  • Common Causes: Severe trauma, complex twisting injuries.
  • Treatment: May require surgical intervention, longer rehabilitation period, and specialized care.

By understanding the different types of rolled ankles, one can better identify the specific injury, provide appropriate treatment, and implement effective preventive measures to avoid future injuries.

Causes of a Rolled Ankle

Physical Activities and Sports

  • Running or Jumping: Sudden changes in direction or landing awkwardly from a jump can cause the ankle to roll.
  • Contact Sports: Football, basketball, and soccer involve physical contact and rapid movements that increase the risk of ankle sprains.
  • High-Impact Activities: Activities like gymnastics, skateboarding, and trail running that involve jumps or uneven surfaces.

Environmental Factors

  • Uneven Surfaces: Walking or running on uneven or slippery surfaces can lead to loss of balance and ankle rolling.
  • Obstacles: Tripping over objects such as curbs, rocks, or equipment can result in a rolled ankle.
  • Poor Lighting: Reduced visibility can cause missteps and accidental twists.


  • Inappropriate Shoes: Wearing shoes that do not provide adequate support or are not suitable for the activity can increase the risk of ankle injuries.
  • High Heels: High-heeled shoes elevate the risk due to instability and altered foot mechanics.
  • Worn-Out Footwear: Shoes with worn-out soles or inadequate grip can lead to slipping and ankle rolls.

Previous Injuries

  • History of Ankle Sprains: Previous ankle injuries can weaken ligaments and increase the likelihood of re-injury.
  • Inadequate Rehabilitation: Insufficient recovery and rehabilitation after an initial injury can result in persistent weakness and instability.

Biomechanical Factors

  • Ankle Instability: Weak or unstable ankles, whether from genetics or previous injuries, are more prone to rolling.
  • High Arches or Flat Feet: Foot shape can influence how weight is distributed, potentially leading to instability.
  • Muscle Imbalance: Imbalances in the muscles around the ankle and lower leg can affect stability and increase injury risk.

Lack of Warm-Up or Stretching

  • Cold Muscles: Engaging in physical activity without a proper warm-up can leave muscles and ligaments less flexible and more susceptible to injury.
  • Insufficient Stretching: Poor flexibility in the calf, Achilles tendon, and ankle can limit range of motion and increase injury risk.


  • Muscle Tiredness: Fatigue reduces the ability of muscles to support and stabilize the ankle, increasing the likelihood of rolling.
  • Poor Coordination: Tired muscles can impair coordination and balance, leading to missteps.

Age and Development Factors

  • Children: Active children are at a higher risk due to their developing coordination and frequent physical activity.
  • Elderly: Older adults may experience decreased balance and proprioception, making them more prone to falls and ankle injuries.

By understanding these detailed causes, one can take preventive measures to minimize the risk of rolling an ankle, such as using proper footwear, strengthening the ankle muscles, and being cautious on uneven surfaces.

Symptoms of a Rolled Ankle


  • Immediate Pain: Sudden, sharp pain at the time of injury.
  • Localized Pain: Concentrated around the affected ligaments, usually on the outer side for inversion sprains and the inner side for eversion sprains.
  • Ongoing Pain: Persistent or throbbing pain that can worsen with movement or pressure.


  • Rapid Onset: Swelling often develops quickly after the injury.
  • Localized Swelling: Around the affected area of the ankle, making it appear larger.
  • Generalized Swelling: In severe cases, swelling may extend up the lower leg or down to the foot.


  • Discoloration: Bruising around the ankle can appear as purple, blue, or black marks due to bleeding under the skin.
  • Spread of Bruising: Over time, the bruising may spread further away from the injury site as gravity pulls the blood downward.

Restricted Range of Motion

  • Stiffness: Difficulty moving the ankle in different directions.
  • Limited Flexibility: Reduced ability to point the toes up (dorsiflexion) or down (plantarflexion).
  • Pain with Movement: Increased pain when trying to move the ankle, making it hard to perform normal activities.


  • Wobbly Feeling: Sensation of the ankle being unstable or giving way.
  • Weakness: Feeling that the ankle can’t support weight properly.
  • Frequent Giving Way: Recurrent episodes of the ankle turning or rolling during activities.

Difficulty Bearing Weight

  • Pain on Standing: Pain when putting weight on the affected foot.
  • Limping: Walking with a limp to avoid pressure on the injured ankle.
  • Inability to Walk: In severe cases, complete inability to bear weight on the injured ankle.


  • Touch Sensitivity: Soreness when touching or pressing on the affected area.
  • Localized Tenderness: Specific points around the ankle may be particularly tender, indicating the most damaged ligaments.

Warmth and Redness

  • Increased Temperature: The injured area may feel warm to the touch.
  • Redness: Skin around the injury site may appear red due to increased blood flow.

Audible Snap or Pop

  • Sound at the Time of Injury: Some individuals may hear or feel a snap or pop when the injury occurs, indicating ligament damage.

Other Symptoms

  • Numbness or Tingling: In some cases, there may be temporary numbness or tingling in the foot or toes.
  • Visible Deformity: In severe sprains, the ankle may appear deformed or out of place.

By recognizing these symptoms in detail, one can better identify the severity of a rolled ankle and seek appropriate treatment, ensuring a proper recovery process.

Treatment of a Rolled Ankle

Immediate Treatment (First Aid)

RICE Method

  • Rest:
    • Avoid putting weight on the injured ankle.
    • Use crutches or a wheelchair if necessary to prevent further injury.
  • Ice:
    • Apply ice packs to the affected area for 15-20 minutes every 1-2 hours.
    • Use a cloth or towel to protect the skin from direct contact with ice.
  • Compression:
    • Use an elastic bandage or ankle brace to compress the injured area.
    • Ensure the wrap is snug but not too tight to avoid cutting off circulation.
  • Elevation:
    • Keep the injured ankle elevated above heart level as much as possible.
    • Use pillows to prop up the leg, especially when lying down.

Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers

  • Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs):
    • Medications such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve) to reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Acetaminophen:
    • Tylenol to help manage pain if NSAIDs are not suitable.

Professional Medical Treatment

Diagnosis and Assessment

  • Physical Examination:
    • Doctor assesses range of motion, stability, and areas of tenderness.
  • Imaging Tests:
    • X-rays to rule out fractures.
    • MRI or CT scans for detailed imaging of ligaments and soft tissues if needed.


  • Ankle Braces:
    • Use of semi-rigid braces to support the ankle during the healing process.
  • Casts:
    • In severe cases, a cast may be used to completely immobilize the ankle.


  • Prescription Pain Relievers:
    • Stronger pain medications for severe pain.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Medications:
    • Prescribed if over-the-counter options are insufficient.

Rehabilitation and Physical Therapy

Early Phase Rehabilitation

  • Controlled Exercises:
    • Gentle range-of-motion exercises to prevent stiffness.
    • Gradual weight-bearing as tolerated.
  • Physical Therapy:
    • Supervised exercises to restore mobility and strength.

Intermediate Phase Rehabilitation

  • Strengthening Exercises:
    • Focused on muscles around the ankle to improve support and stability.
  • Balance and Proprioception Training:
    • Exercises to enhance coordination and prevent future sprains.

Advanced Phase Rehabilitation

  • Functional Training:
    • Sport-specific or activity-specific exercises to prepare for return to normal activities.
  • Agility Drills:
    • Exercises to improve speed and reaction time.

Surgical Intervention

Indications for Surgery

  • Severe Ligament Tears:
    • Complete rupture of ligaments not healing with conservative treatment.
  • Chronic Instability:
    • Persistent instability affecting daily activities despite rehabilitation.

Types of Surgery

  • Ligament Repair:
    • Surgical stitching or grafting to repair torn ligaments.
  • Arthroscopy:
    • Minimally invasive procedure to assess and repair internal structures.

Post-Surgical Rehabilitation

  • Immobilization:
    • Initial use of a cast or brace post-surgery.
  • Gradual Rehabilitation:
    • Follow a structured physical therapy plan to regain strength and mobility.

Alternative and Complementary Therapies

  • Acupuncture:
    • Used to manage pain and promote healing.
  • Chiropractic Care:
    • Manipulative therapies to improve alignment and reduce discomfort.
  • Massage Therapy:
    • Techniques to reduce swelling, improve circulation, and relieve pain.

Long-Term Management and Prevention

  • Ankle Braces and Supports:
    • Use during high-risk activities to prevent re-injury.
  • Footwear:
    • Proper shoes with good support and cushioning.
  • Strengthening and Conditioning:
    • Regular exercises to maintain ankle strength and flexibility.
  • Education:
    • Training on proper techniques and movements to avoid injury.

By following these detailed treatment steps, individuals with a rolled ankle can ensure proper care and rehabilitation, minimizing the risk of complications and promoting a full recovery.

Now the question is the Healing process or Healing time.

How Long Does a Rolled Ankle Take to Heal?

The healing time for a rolled ankle varies depending on the severity of the injury. Here is a detailed breakdown:

Grade I (Mild) Sprain

  • Description:
    • Minor stretching or microscopic tearing of the ligament fibers.
  • Healing Time:
    • 1-2 Weeks:
      • Initial recovery phase where pain and swelling decrease significantly.
    • 2-4 Weeks:
      • Return to normal activities with minimal discomfort.
  • Treatment:
    • RICE method (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation).
    • Over-the-counter pain relievers (ibuprofen, acetaminophen).
    • Light exercises and stretching as pain allows.

Grade II (Moderate) Sprain

  • Description:
    • Partial tear of the ligament, moderate injury.
  • Healing Time:
    • 4-6 Weeks:
      • Significant improvement in pain and swelling.
    • 6-8 Weeks:
      • Gradual return to more intense activities and sports.
  • Treatment:
    • RICE method initially.
    • Possible use of an ankle brace or splint.
    • Physical therapy to restore strength and flexibility.
    • Gradual increase in activity level as healing progresses.

Grade III (Severe) Sprain

  • Description:
    • Complete tear or rupture of the ligament.
  • Healing Time:
    • 8-12 Weeks:
      • Initial phase of significant pain and swelling reduction.
    • 3-6 Months:
      • Full recovery period to return to pre-injury activity levels.
  • Treatment:
    • RICE method initially.
    • Immobilization with a cast or brace.
    • Possible surgical intervention if conservative treatment fails.
    • Intensive physical therapy post-immobilization.
    • Gradual, monitored return to activities.

High Ankle Sprain (Syndesmotic Sprain)

  • Description:
    • Involves injury to the ligaments connecting the tibia and fibula.
  • Healing Time:
    • 6-12 Weeks:
      • For mild to moderate sprains.
    • 3-6 Months:
      • For severe sprains or those requiring surgery.
  • Treatment:
    • RICE method initially.
    • Possible use of a walking boot or cast.
    • Physical therapy focused on restoring range of motion and strength.
    • Longer immobilization period compared to standard ankle sprains.

Factors Affecting Healing Time

Severity of the Sprain

  • More severe sprains (Grade II and III) require longer healing times.

Immediate Treatment

  • Prompt and appropriate initial treatment can speed up recovery.

Rehabilitation and Physical Therapy

  • Consistent and guided rehabilitation can improve outcomes and shorten recovery time.

Age and Overall Health

  • Younger and healthier individuals tend to heal faster.
  • Conditions like diabetes or vascular issues can prolong healing.

Previous Injuries

  • A history of ankle injuries can result in longer recovery times due to weakened ligaments and chronic instability.

General Recovery Timeline

  1. First Few Days:
    • Focus on reducing pain and swelling with RICE method and rest.
  2. 1-2 Weeks:
    • Begin gentle range-of-motion exercises as pain allows.
  3. 2-4 Weeks:
    • Gradual increase in activity level and introduction of strengthening exercises.
  4. 4-8 Weeks:
    • Continued physical therapy, return to normal daily activities, and gradual return to sports for mild to moderate sprains.
  5. 8-12 Weeks and Beyond:
    • Full return to pre-injury activities for severe sprains, with ongoing physical therapy as needed.

By understanding these detailed recovery timelines and factors, individuals can better manage their expectations and recovery process for a rolled ankle, ensuring appropriate care and rehabilitation to prevent future injuries.


The healing time for a rolled ankle varies based on the severity of the injury, with Grade I (mild) sprains typically taking 1-4 weeks, Grade II (moderate) sprains requiring 4-8 weeks, and Grade III (severe) sprains needing 8-12 weeks or longer, often extending to several months for complete recovery. Factors such as immediate and appropriate treatment, consistent rehabilitation, overall health, age, and history of previous injuries significantly influence the recovery process. Prompt and proper care, including the RICE method, physical therapy, and possibly surgical intervention for severe cases, can expedite healing and prevent future complications. Understanding these timelines and adhering to recommended treatments ensures a more effective and timely recovery.