How Long on Crutches for Sprained Ankle?

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According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, every day about 25,000 people will sprain their ankles. Ankle sprains occur when the tendons that stabilize the ankle joint are stretched too far, causing hyperextension, tears or complete detachment of the tendon from the bone. Time spent on crutches for a sprained ankle depends on the severity and the type of sprain.

Sprain Basics

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Differing degrees of ankle injury vary based on how sever the sprain is. In a grade 1 sprain, the least severe of the three, microscopic tears from in the ligament cause minor swelling and tenderness. A grade 2 sprain includes the same basic tears only they are larger, causing lots of pain and swelling in the joint; these may require the use of crutches to keep weight off of the foot. A grade 3 sprain is the most severe and occurs when the entire ligament either completely ruptures or tears free from the bone; a tear of this magnitude will require crutches.

When the ankle is sprained there is often a popping sound associated with it, along with a sensation of tearing in the joint. Oftentimes the ankle itself becomes tender and swollen, and bruises will form at the point of the sprain (ref. 2). The most common cause of a sprain is a foot that contacts the ground at an abnormal angle, leading the individual to put weight on the joint instead of the heel; this causes the ankle to 'roll' and the ligaments to stretch and tear (ref. 3). Crutches should be obtained immediately if you suspect an ankle sprain.

Prevention of ankle injuries is simple but does not guarantee absolute prevention of ankle injuries. Exercises that improve the ankle's strength and flexibility keep the joint limber and better able to cope with sudden pressure (ref. 2). Once an ankle has already been injured crutches can be used to ensure that the joint remains stable and immobile, allowing it to heal more quickly and preventing a relapse of injury.

Ankle Injury Recovery

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Recovery time for ankle injuries varies based on the severity, but for a grade 2 sprain requiring crutches, it will typically take 5 to 10 weeks until the joint is fully healed. You will want to use crutches for the first 4 to 8 weeks, longer if your doctor recommends to. For a grade 3 sprain, the joint may be unusable for 3 to 6 months and perhaps longer if the injury is serious. Crutches become absolutely necessary for the entirety of the healing process for an injury of this severity. Sometimes a complete tear of the ligament will require surgery, and in this situation, you can expect to be on crutches the entire time until your surgery and afterward until your doctor indicates that it is safe to put pressure on the joint.

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