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Why Won’t My Ankle Sprain Heal?

Updated: Nov 17, 2022

It's all fun and games until someone sprains an ankle.

The bane of athletes everywhere, and one of the most common injuries, all the way from professionals to weekend warriors, is the ankle sprain. They are, quite literally, a pain and it can feel like they last forever. Consequently, in order to recover from a sprain as quickly as possible, it’s important to correctly diagnose the injury.

Ankle sprains are generally graded according to their severity and location:

  1. Grade 1 is the least severe — an injury to the outer ankle ligament only.

  2. Grade 2 is an injury to both outer and inner ligaments.

  3. Grade 3 is what is known as a “high ankle sprain”—an injury to the ligament connecting the shin bone to the outer bone of the leg.

The degree of damage to the ligament comes into play as well. A podiatrist will determine if the ligament is partially or fully torn or overstretched, and will also look at how much swelling has occurred. They’ll also check to see if there is a broken bone or a dislocation of the joint. These factors play a role in how to treat the injury and how long the recovery will last.

If just the outer ligament is injured, we can typically reduce pain and swelling with a combo of ice, compression and rest, decreasing the chance of further tearing the ligament. However, it’s always important to treat each sprain the right way so that a grade 1 doesn’t turn into a grade 2 or 3. Sprains that are not properly rehabbed, untreated sprains, or repeated injuries can cause long-term ankle instability.

So to answer the question “why won’t my ankle sprain heal?” -- it will heal, it just takes time, patience and following your doctor’s instructions. The best thing a someone can do to speed up the process is to be seen by a foot and ankle specialist as soon as an injury happens


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