An ankle sprain can put a serious dent in your fitness schedule, making you antsy to get back on the road. However, if you return to running too soon, you risk complications and further injury. Know that you're not alone in your injury. The publication Competitor notes that, every day, 23,000 people in the United States sprain their ankle.
When you can return to running depends on the extent of your sprain. Certain people are prone to ankle sprains and, once you've had one, you're more likely to experience one again. Therefore, proper rehabbing is essential.
Read More: How to Best Help a Sprained Ankle
Types of Sprain
The grade of your ankle sprain determines the seriousness of the injury:
Grade 1: You experience only mild symptoms, and swelling is minimal. You may have difficulty running, or even walking, but you're usually able to finish your run after it's happened. You've overstretched the connective tissue, but not torn anything
Grade 2: You'll have moderate or serious pain, and it'll be difficult to walk. Running is out of the question. Some bruising and swelling appears after a few hours. You've torn ligaments.
Grade 3: You've torn or ruptured the ligaments of your ankle. Extreme pain and immediate swelling occur. You'll need emergency room care and an X-ray to ensure your bones aren't involved.
Only a doctor or physical therapist can accurately diagnose the degree of your sprain. Don't try to self-diagnose.
The mildest of sprains, Grade 1, may have you back running in two to four weeks. A Grade 2 sprain requires a little more time off the track — usually four to eight weeks. If you have the most serious type of sprain, however, don't expect to get back to running for at least three months.
Your doctor is the ultimate determiner as to whether you're ready to run. You may be eager to get your legs moving, but coming back too soon can cause compensatory injuries as you shift your gait to baby your hurt ankle. It can also delay healing and risk another sprain.
How to Come Back
Going all out on your first run after an ankle sprain is unlikely to go well. Make the run short and at about 80 percent of your full capabilities. Avoid speed work and tough hill climbs for several weeks. You want to be sure you're ankle is really up for the work. Return to running gradually and only try a run once you can hop on your injured side without pain.
In the first few weeks of returning to running, you'll benefit from specific exercises that will rehab your ankle and restore leg strength. In addition to running, these exercises can help you get your strength back:
- Standing on a balance board;
- Double-leg and single-leg hopping on a mini trampoline;
- Box jumps (but only under the guidance of your physical therapist).
Read More: Home Remedies for Ankle Pain