Health blog

Is it OK to walk on a sprained ankle?

February 1st, 2023
Is It OK to Walk on a Sprained Ankle

If you’ve just sprained your ankle, you might be wondering if it’s OK to walk on it. The answer that most medical professionals may give you is no. In fact, most experts suggest that immobilizing the foot and limiting weight-bearing activities for up to two weeks is the best course of action for a newly sprained ankle. 

A sprained ankle occurs when one or more of the ligaments in your ankle are overstretched or torn. A medical study reports that more than 23,000 U.S. adults per day require treatment for an ankle sprain. 

With so many ankle sprains happening on a daily basis, it can be important to learn the dos and don’ts behind them. Physical therapists can be a major resource for those with ankle sprains. These specialists can help you build you an effective recovery plan for your sprained ankle.

Why is it not OK to walk on a sprained ankle at first?

Physical therapists are educated in the complexities of the human musculoskeletal system, which includes your ankle. Their in-depth knowledge gives them a deep understanding of issues like ankle sprains that can help you understand why it’s not OK to walk on a sprained ankle. Here are a few reasons why your specialist might tell you this:

  • Your ankle needs time to rest.

    Movement is widely acknowledged as a potent recovery tool. Still, a sprained ankle requires a few days of rest to jump-start its natural recovery. The ligament needs time to heal its fibers, and your ankle needs time to find its initial alignment. The amount of time you need to rest your sprained ankle, without walking on it, can vary. Your physical therapist can determine the extent of your injury and let you know how long you should stay off your feet.
  • Your symptoms can make it hard to walk.

    Many of the symptoms of an ankle sprain naturally make it harder to walk. Pain is often your body’s way of communicating its limitations to you. Putting weight on your injured ankle can further inflame your already-irritated tissue. Your ankle may also be swollen and stiff, which can make it more difficult to walk on a practical level. People with severe ankle sprains might not even be able to bear their own weight without crutches.

  • Your ankle is weak. 

When your ankle is injured, it is in a weakened state. This weakness can interrupt your sense of balance while walking and make daily tasks even more difficult. Unfortunately, ankle weakness and instability can continue for weeks after your pain subsides. While most ankle sprains heal without further complications, about 10% of them heal extremely slowly and over time. Performing certain physical therapy exercises can help improve your ankle strength faster. As a result, you can quickly regain your stability and balance and get back to the daily routine you’re used to. 

  • You can cause further damage to your ankle.

    Since sprained ankle ligaments can lead to chronic ankle instability, walking can become a risky activity, especially immediately after you’ve been injured. Ankle instability can cause your ankle to roll or twist while you’re walking. As a result, you can increase the damage done to your ankle ligament. In turn, this damage can increase your recovery time and the amount of time you need to be off your feet. Supervised range-of-motion exercises supervised by a physical therapist can be a safe way to increase your mobility without increasing your risk of further injury.  

How do I know when I can start to walk after a sprained ankle?

The severity of your sprained ankle can play a large part in deciding when you can start walking after your injury. You will also need to take your recovery time into consideration. A medical professional can evaluate the level of intensity of your sprain and at which point you will be able to walk. Depending on where your sprain falls on the following sprain scale, you may need to wait longer before you can walk on your injured foot.

  • Grade 1 — A Grade 1 sprain describes a stretch or small tear in your ligament fibers. There may be minor swelling and pain. Recovery time can take up to five weeks.

  • Grade 2 — A Grade 2 sprain involves a torn ligament, but the tear is not complete. With this level of sprain, you could experience noticeable swelling and pain during movement. The recovery time for a Grade 2 sprain can take up to six weeks.

  • Grade 3 — A Grade 3 sprain is the most severe, and it involves a ligament that is completely torn. This kind of sprain will involve significant swelling and pain. It will also make any movement extremely difficult. Achieving full recovery from a Grade 3 sprain could take up to six months. Your ankle has significant swelling, the injury is painful and walking is difficult.

How can physical therapists help treat your ankle sprain?

Physical therapists can let you know when it is and isn’t OK to walk on your sprained ankle. However, they can also help you recover from your injury in safe and customizable one-on-one sessions. These specialists are adept at using many therapy techniques to treat musculoskeletal injuries like ankle sprains. 

Your physical therapist may try the following techniques to treat your ankle sprain and ease your pain:

Rehab Access can help you learn when it’s OK to walk on your sprained ankle

Are you looking for a physical therapy team that can tell you when it’s OK to walk on your sprained ankle? Look no further than our team at Rehab Access Physical Therapy. We offer free screenings that can reveal the severity of your ankle sprain. In addition, our physical therapists excel at constructing customized recovery plans designed to: 

  • Reduce pain.
  • Improve ankle flexibility.
  • Speed up healing.
  • Decrease the risk of future ankle injuries. 

Contact our team today for more information about how we can help treat your ankle sprain or to schedule your initial appointment.