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Sprained ankle - how long to heal?

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  • Sprained ankle - how long to heal?

    About 2 months ago I took a misstep unloading a wheelbarrow and managed to sprain my ankle.

    I iced, wrapped, rested for a week or so and it seemed to be better.
    Enough so that I took a chance & rode.

    I did fine for about 20min, then asked horse to move off my injured leg and YIKES!!! Felt like I reinjured it all over again.

    Time for a professional opinion...
    Orthopod verified it was sprained and told me riding was ok if I wore an Ace bandage.

    FF to last night. Ankle has been feeling Good, walking w/o a limp and doing chores & ADL painfree.
    So I rode last night and 1/2 hour into the ride BAM! torqued the ankle again.

    Right now I am vet-wrapped - more compression control than the Ace bandage - downing ibuprofen like there is no tomorrow & feeling very sorry for myself.
    I had been planning on a 4-day dressage clinic mid-May but that doesn't seem like my Wisest Decision right now.

    Anyone here dealing with a sprain?
    How long do I need to allow for the tendons, muscles, etc to heal completely?

    I need a Group Hug
    *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
    Steppin' Out 1988-2004
    Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
    Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015

  • #2
    Ruh-roh! An owee!!

    Sadly IMHO, re-injury is quite common and often your recovery is dependent on how severe a sprain it was. A bad sprain can haunt you for years. Sometimes, once stretched or torn, your ankle ligaments/tendons don't heal back to normal and you always have an unstable ankle. When it's hurting or swollen=stay off it, elevate it, ice it, wear good shoes, wrap when up for awhile for support while it's healing.

    - uneven ground is your enemy. Avoid walking on uneven footing
    - wear good ankle supporting shoes/boots when ambulating/riding. Such boots as high topped shoe laced muckers or shoe laced paddock boots and best of all high topped hiking boots. Nice & snug. Can be used with double ace bandages to kinda reproduce a "soft cast".
    - wear only flat shoes, no heels
    - wear sneakers everywhere for a few weeks to absorb shock
    - use mounting blocks only to get on and off; you can re-injure just hopping down off your horse ESPECIALLY if you land on uneven ground!
    - use longer stirrups for awhile to avoid flexing ankles, go totally long, don't ask your ankles to support weight or flex, sit on your butt when riding and of course = no jumping for awhile.
    - Lose weight if needed.
    - talk to an equestrian oriented physical therapist for more suggestions.
    - if it hurts=don't do it!!
    Good luck! Probably just needs some life adjustment and you'll do fine.
    Been there, done this!


    • #3
      Isn't it about 6-8 weeks for basic healing, assuming you don't reaggravate it constantly? I think that's the general time frame. Then make sure you reintroduce work that might aggravate it (stretching the heel down, walking on uneven surfaces, jumping up and down, etc.) slowly, since the freshly healed tissue is easy to re-tear.


      • #4
        if you can get into a pair of stiff tall boots, wear those when riding so you don't torque it again. NOT field boots- they have too much lateral flex. Otherwise, ride without stirrups so you can't torque it while riding. And yes, wrap it well- even taping it properly, not just an ace bandage- if you can't fit into ankle supporting boots. If you have field boots only, do the ankle laces up as tight as you can without creating numbness.

        Otherwise, you keep re-injuring it every couple of weeks and it will never heal properly.

        You can't put a general time frame on a sprain because they can be very minor to very severe. Some take a week to heal, some never completely do. I found mine never felt normal until 6-12 months later.
        "The Threat of Internet Ignorance: ... we are witnessing the rise of an age of equestrian disinformation, one where a trusting public can graze on nonsense packaged to look like fact."-LRG-AF


        • #5
          I severely sprained my ankle and fractured my talus bone in a fall from my horse a few years ago. The doctor made me use a walking boot and crutches for eight weeks. About halfway through that time, I started riding again -- I would take off the walking cast at my car so it didn't get grungy at the barn, crutch to the mounting block then climb on. I rode WITHOUT STIRRUPS during that whole recovery time so I wouldn't put any weight into the ankle. It didn't bother me to squeeze or kick lightly with the leg.

          Once I was off crutches/out of the cast and able to start using stirrups again, I had to start with them very long. It was really painful to try to flex my heel far down or put much weight into that leg. Though it got better over time, unfortunately I *still* favor that leg and have trouble putting weight into it or getting my heel down. (I would not know this, however, if not for pictures and mirrors -- to me, it really feels like the heel is down just as far as the good leg, but one look in the mirror shows me that isn't so at all.)
          I evented just for the Halibut.


          • Original Poster

            Thanks all for the advice.
            I do try tio stick to level ground & have a pair of barn boots that seem to offer enough ankle support.
            The vetwrap (actually "human grade" Coban I got from work to bandage a horse) seems to be more comfortable than the elastic Ace bandage.

            Orthopod also suggested a Sweda bandage that is adjustable & I may pick one up.

            I'll try using my tall boots - have been riding in my pullon paddocks forever.
            They do have good ankle support but if the tall boots help, why not?

            I always use a stepladder to mount (17h+ horse) and ease myself down - no bouncing!

            I'll try no stirrups or at least lengthen the leathers a hole or two.

            Sigh...so I am most likely looking at a couple months to consider myself healed.

            Getting old & injured is definitely not for sissies!
            *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
            Steppin' Out 1988-2004
            Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
            Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015


            • #7
              When I badly sprained my ankle a couple of years ago, I refused to scratch the dressage show 5 days later (I had scratched the previous show due to a slight concussion) When I arrived at the showgrounds, the show vet took pity on me and offered to use her laser on my ankle. Wow! I was about 90% recovered. It still took about 3-4 months to heal completely, but I was able to ride and flex the ankle without pain. See if you can find someone who uses a laser, either a physical therapist or a friendly vet....it sure worked for me.


              • #8
                And, if you can remember what is was you did to torque it...don't do that again!!!!

                Hope you heal fast.
                a 501(c)3 organization helping 501(c)3 equine rescues


                • #9
                  Take it from someone who has sprained and resprained their ankle more time then I can count ;-) ask your DR about physical therapy. Working with a good therapist to help prevent the build up of scar tissue and to help properly strengthen the ankle will be worth it. The first time I sprained my ankle I didn't know better and didn't get help and it never healed right. Months later I finally ended up in PT and let me just say, deep tissue massage to break up scar tissue is NOT FUN!!!!

                  The other thing is find a good ankle brace/wrap. My favorite is a Stromgren 4-strap ankle brace.

                  Good luck with healing!
                  "You are under arrest for operating your mouth under the influence of
                  ignorance!" Officer Beck


                  • Original Poster

                    Laser, huh?
                    I work with home health nurses & will ask about that.
                    90% less pain sounds like a great deal!

                    Geek: Ha!
                    Whatever you do with your ankle when subtly asking horse to move off that leg...
                    Actually this time it was whatever you do to sit deeper when horse becomes "elevated"...
                    Will avoid both?

                    The Stromgren sounds a lot like the Sweda.
                    1st stop this morning: Walgreens
                    *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
                    Steppin' Out 1988-2004
                    Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
                    Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015


                    • #11
                      Definite second on the PT. That works wonders!!!

                      And about the tall boots... I had pull-ons before this injury and never could get into them again. I just lost the flexibility needed to point my toe that far. TWO YEARS after the accident I gave up and got zippers put in them.

                      Good luck!
                      I evented just for the Halibut.


                      • #12
                        Sprains are the absolute worst!! I sprained my ankle playing lacrosse in college - I was running and in my path was a rolling lacrosse ball! I stepped right on it and rolled my ankle. Took weeks to heal, I was on crutches for at least 6 weeks, what a nightmare, and the pain was excruciating!! Since then I've broken the other ankle and crushed the bones in my foot and none have been so painful as the sprain.

                        I would ice it after every activity. At least you can do things, I was wrapped all the time so couldn't do anything. Keep it elevated when sitting down.

                        It will heal, mine finally did and no issues again.

                        Good Luck!


                        • #13
                          I sprained mine two weeks ago tomrorow, and had hoped to ride last weekend (1 week later) at a show. Tried riding at home & couldn't bend it enough to be effective. Now, I'm taking another week totally off. So far, it feels a lot better, but mine wasn't a terrible sprain either. I do agree - don't push too hard & reinjure it. That will just make the healing process harder.
                          A proud friend of bar.ka.


                          • #14
                            Do gentle exercises to strengthen you ankle--draw the ABCs with your foot. Write out the alphabet with your foot if that makes any sense, tracing the letters in the air. This is a great non-weight bearing exercise and you'd be surprised how much this helps improve your ankle.

                            No stirrups work is great too.

                            Wrapped and ice after exercise.

                            I finished my ride the day I sprained mine (and fell off a second time ) and I rode the next day. It was Nationals and a team event, sorta had to keep going. But after that I took 2-3 weeks completely off. Followed by a few weeks of almost completely no stirrups.


                            • #15
                              Ugh I just sprained mine (via totally non-horse related klutziness)

                              Doctors didn't seem concerned the day I went in for it and told me a week on crutches then start walking again - but it's been 5 days and

                              A. foot/ankle is still numb and tingly feeling
                              B. can't wiggle toesies
                              C. bottom of my foot is purple from bruising.
                              D. can't put weight on it at all yet.

                              Never sprained my ankle before - is this normal?

                              Have the foot doc's number and will be giving him a call Wednesday if it doesn't start getting better

                              Missing a show today wah!
                              *The Quietman ~ Irish Approved Gr.1 Stallion
                              Like Us on Facebook


                              • #16
                                So much good advice already.

                                I would add to ride without stirrups for a while, that torque with the stirrups is what does a sore ankle in.
                                You really can do everything you do without them, once you get used to it, even starting colts and jumping courses.

                                Also, I think that firm support for long time is the key, until it all heals, so you don't keep reinjuring.

                                A stiff hiking boot, with a relatively thick stiff lug sole, is the best to give the whole foot and ankle support.
                                They have very light ones today, but you have to be careful if you ride in them, you could get hung up in the stirrups, so use peacock stirrups or such.

                                Vasque fitted me best, a special foot orthopedic shoe store here sold them just for that, but there are many good brands out there.
                                I had to do everything in them for several years, even riding and starting colts, but it eventually healed fine and didn't need them any more.

                                Just take care of it well now and one day you won't hardly remember which leg it was.


                                • #17
                                  Can I join in? I fell on the stairs on 23rd December last year, and sprained two of my toes. They're still not right now. Ugh, sprains suck.
                                  Horse Show Names Free name website with over 6200 names. Want to add? PM me!


                                  • #18
                                    one more thought!

                                    I can also suggest for those trying to get their bum ankles into pull on english dress boots and can't any longer......Have your dress boots made into field boots. Journeyman Saddlers in Middleburg Va. did a pair of mine for me and it works well. Basically they cut the top of the boot top over the arch to the ankle open. They put a liner in and some laces and voila! Keeps you from having to trash some good dress boots. They look like dress boots with some laces over the ankle and gives better ankle support than the dress boots alone.

                                    I second the stiff mens work boots or stiffer hiking boots for walking in the country!! You can still acewrap under it. Like a soft cast. Experiment with what works for you.


                                    • Original Poster

                                      Glad to see I'm in good - if klutzy - company

                                      I got the upgraded brace and it does seem to help. I haven't tried it with my dress boots yet but they have the full back zips so getting them on won't be an issue.
                                      I'm giving myself another week before I even consider getting back on a horse.

                                      I've been thinking I need to do some ROM stuff. The ABC exercise sounds perfect for when I'm en-couched with TV.

                                      So far the worst tenderness/pain still occurs when I flex my foot inward...ya know, like putting it on a horse's side...

                                      Go see another doctor - I had Zero bruising & no numbness in that amount of time post-accident.
                                      Plus I am Old & you are Young so should heal faster.
                                      *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
                                      Steppin' Out 1988-2004
                                      Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
                                      Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by 2DogsFarm View Post

                                        Go see another doctor - I had Zero bruising & no numbness in that amount of time post-accident.
                                        Plus I am Old & you are Young so should heal faster.
                                        Heading over to the campus health services tomorrow - if anything it's getting even MORE swollen and swore looking - my toes look like sausages and the entire foot is puffy - and still numb and bruised.

                                        I've been RICE-ing religously too

                                        Think I just got stuck with a cranky emergency room doctor that was just Not Happy I was asking questions - so sorry if I try to be a good patient and involved with my own recovery!
                                        *The Quietman ~ Irish Approved Gr.1 Stallion
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