Learning how to heal a sprained ankle fast is the first thing many people search after injury - and for good reason. A sprained ankle hurts, but it also keeps you off your feet. Most people get sprains during sports and exercise, so you want to get back to what you love ASAP.
Ankle sprains can be tricky because joints are so complex. While the network of bone and tissue that makes up your ankle is complicated, at-home care for a sprain is simple and straightforward.
Even small things – like taking the best collagen for joints – can go a long way toward your recovery.
The steps for how to heal a sprained ankle fast at home are similar to the steps for care with any common injury. You need to prevent further injury, manage pain, and help your body heal itself.
But before we get into how to heal a sprained ankle fast, let’s make sure you know exactly what a sprain is so you can determine if you have one and how to treat it.
What is a sprain?
In its simplest terms, a sprain is a stretched or torn ligament.
To understand an ankle sprain, we need to talk a little bit about your anatomy.
Your ankle is made up of three bones connected by a system of ligaments, tendons, and muscles. The bones carry the majority of your weight and act as a frame, and the ligaments provide support and keep the bones in place.
Muscles and tendons in your ankles are thinner and more flexible, and they’re responsible for the actual movement of your ankles and feet.
When you break your ankle, you’ve damaged one of the bones.
When you strain your ankle, you’ve damaged a tendon or muscle in your ankle.
When you sprain your ankle, you’ve damaged one of the ligaments.
One thing to keep in mind when researching how to heal a sprained ankle fast is what your ligaments are made of. Ligaments are made of collagen and stretchy elastic fibers. As a result, taking collagen for ligaments may help speed your healing.
If you’ve ever wondered, “Does collagen help joints?” The answer is yes, and now you know one reason why – ligaments!
Of course, taking the best collagen for joints isn’t the only thing you can do to help your body recover from a sprained ankle. Here are eight more tips on how to heal a sprained ankle fast at home.
How to heal a sprained ankle fast: 8 tips for home treatment
Before we get started with tips, it’s important to ensure you’re in a good place to learn how to heal a sprained ankle fast from home. Because while mild to moderate sprains can be cared for at home, severe sprains may need medical intervention.
You may need to visit a doctor for assistance, proper diagnosis, or maybe even surgery. If you start to notice any of the following during home care, stop and reach out to your healthcare professionals immediately:
- A popping sound from your ankle during the injury or at any point in recovery
- Pain or tenderness when touching your ankle that persists beyond the first day or two
- Swelling that doesn’t go down within the first few days or that increases suddenly
- A misshapen look to your ankle
- Sudden, severe pain
- Pale or blue discoloration of your foot
- Feeling “pins and needles” and/or losing feeling in your foot
These can all be signs of a more severe injury that should be treated right away. The good news is that the majority of sprained ankles don’t develop into something serious, so you can follow these steps to care for your injury at home.
1. Protect your joint
The first step in how to heal a sprained ankle fast is following your instincts. When a part of your body is injured, you naturally want to protect it from further injury. This can include things like pulling back from touch or putting little-to-no weight on it immediately after the injury.
You’ll want to make sure that your ankle won’t get pulled around by accident, like while you’re sleeping, for instance. When you’re up and about, you might use a walking boot or crutches to give your body the extra support that your ligaments would normally provide.
2. Rest the injured ankle
Resting an injured ankle can speed your recovery – as long as you don’t overdo it. The idea that you need to stay completely off of your ankle for the full 3 to 6 weeks that your ankle takes to heal is a myth.
When researching how to heal a sprained ankle fast, remember that your body operates on a “use it or lose it” model. This means that spending too much time resting actually increases your risk for re-injury.
Why? Well, your body notices that you aren’t using the muscles around your ankle. This causes your body to stop strengthening them. After a few weeks of this, when you try to get back on your feet, your muscles aren’t ready for normal activity. Your body thought you weren’t using that joint!
This doesn’t mean that you need to jump right back onto your injured ankle, though. Instead, rest for the first 24 - 48 hours and then slowly start returning to normal.
3. Ice to help with swelling… then try heat for relief
Another common recommendation for how to heal a sprained ankle fast is ice. Just like rest, though, ice has a limited window of time where it offers help.
Ice can help reduce swelling immediately after injury by compressing the blood vessels around the injury. As soon as you realize you’ve damaged your ankle, put some ice on it and start massaging the area.
A massage can help the cold penetrate your tissues more deeply. Keep the ice on for no more than 20 minutes at a time, and give your ankle a 30-minute break in between icing sessions.
Repeat this process until your swelling goes down, no more than a day or two.
After that, new research into how to heal a sprained ankle fast suggests using heat to accelerate recovery. Heat stimulates and encourages protein synthesis – helping your body to create the cells it needs to recover.
4. Compress gently
Compression is also common advice on how to heal a sprained ankle fast at home, but there’s usually not much of an explanation for it. How does compression help you heal?
While you’re treating your sprain, your ankle needs something to help replace the slightly stretchy stability of healthy ligaments. That’s where compression comes in. Compression can help prevent your ankle from being accidentally tugged at odd angles, as well as make bearing any weight on it more comfortable.
When wrapping a sprained ankle, make sure that the bandage isn’t too tight. When a bandage is wrapped too tightly, circulation is cut off, and tissues are damaged even more.
Instead, remember that the bandage is helping to do the job of the slightly stretchy ligaments. This means you want to provide snug support that doesn’t impact your movement too much or feel painful.
Wrapping your ankle may take a few tries, so don’t be afraid to start over if you feel the bandage is too tight.
5. Elevate your foot and ankle
Like ice and rest, elevating your ankle is most important right after a sprain. Elevation is another route for reducing swelling and inflammation.
The most pressing reason to reduce swelling is pain. Your joints aren’t made to swell up, so when they do, it hurts. Your body’s inflammatory response is there to send you a message: “This part of the body is damaged! Don’t use it right now!”
Once you’ve received the message, reducing pain can make it easier to stay patient during recovery.
6. Manage your pain
Speaking of reducing pain, ice, compression, and elevation may not always be enough. Even if you’re doing everything “right,” you might still be in pain. Believe it or not, managing your pain is an important part of how to heal a sprained ankle fast.
A growing body of research shows that pain slows healing by keeping your body stressed. When your body is stressed, it burns extra energy, which takes away from actual recovery.
Taking a readily available pain medication like Tylenol or Ibuprofen can help keep your pain levels low. (Just don’t overdo it!)
7. Start gentle exercise ASAP
Getting gentle exercise can help your ankle heal itself to be even stronger than before. Within the first 1-3 days, you’ll want to start doing some gentle movement with your ankle.
Walking around the house as normal can be helpful, as long as you don’t have too many stairs to deal with. If you do have a lot of stairs or don’t feel ready to do a lot of walking, try some sedentary exercises.
Start by drawing 10-15 clockwise circles with your toes and then switch to counterclockwise. Then, as your ankle heals, try writing the alphabet in the air with your toes.
When it comes to how to heal a sprained ankle fast, the more you can move it, the better! Moving your ankle tells your body that you need this joint in top condition, encouraging it to build stronger tissue.
It can be very helpful to visit a physical therapist to get a targeted exercise program for how to heal a sprained ankle fast.
8. Nourish your body as it heals
Of course, if your body is going to build stronger tissue, it needs “building blocks.” Medical nutrition helps you create a customized plan to give your body what it needs to stay healthy and strong under any circumstances – including after injury!
Since a sprain damages your ligament, collagen wound healing can help speed the process along. Getting plenty of collagen gives your body the exact building blocks it needs to repair ligaments, which are mostly made of collagen.
Nourishment is often left out of advice on how to heal a sprained ankle fast, but it’s one of the most critical things you can do. Eating food for healthy joints can help your body repair and strengthen joints all over your body, both now and in the future.
You’ll also want to stay well-hydrated and get plenty of sleep. Remember, your body is rebuilding an important tissue, and it’s hard work!
Your body doesn’t make new cells to repair itself out of nothing. Poor nutrition causes delayed wound healing and makes your body more susceptible to re-injury later.
Fortunately, getting plenty of protein and eating anti-inflammatory foods – like cruciferous veggies, garlic, turmeric, and Omega-3 fatty acids – gives your body everything it needs to rebuild.
Taking collagen for joints, eating an anti-inflammatory diet, and practicing range of motion exercises are all easy ways to start caring for your joints before an injury, as well as recovering afterward.
Does collagen help joints heal faster?
When you’re looking to help with how to heal a sprained ankle fast at home, it’s easy to feel frustrated by the limited information. Most advice seems focused on what to do immediately after the injury, with very little help on long-term care.
While taking the immediate steps of ice, compression, and elevation can soothe some pain, they don’t do much in the long term. Meanwhile, collagen supplements have a growing body of research – and anecdotal evidence – pointing to their help with healing.
Does collagen help joints heal faster? More and more, the answer seems to be “absolutely.”
Caring for a sprained ankle is frustrating, but fortunately, simple. Make sure you rest, ice, and elevate for the first 24-48 hours after injury. After that, use compression, heat, and oral painkillers to manage pain and get moving as soon as you can!
Finally, eat highly nutritious foods and use medical-grade collagen to help your body rebuild.