Understanding Sprains and Strains
Instead, it is best to pursue a program of gradual rehabilitation. Your doctor or a physical therapist can recommend certain exercises that can help you get back to your normal activities at a measured, safe pace. For example, if you’ve sprained your ankle, you may begin by walking slowly on a flat treadmill, then move to an incline, then begin to jog. Someone with a sprained wrist may begin with range-of-motion exercises, and then move on to lifting very light weights.
You can expect some discomfort during rehabilitation, but a sudden flare-up of severe pain is a signal to take a step back and move more cautiously. Healing depends a lot on the individual, but for most mild to moderate sprains and strains, you can expect to regain full mobility within three to eight weeks; more severe injuries can take months for a full recovery.
The goal of treatment for sprains and strains is the return to the level of functionality that the person had before the injury. This means that the expectation is for the injury to completely heal. The time frame for recovery depends on the severity of the injury. It may take just a few days for a slight sprain of an ankle to heal, or it may take months for a knee that has to be surgically reconstructed.
Perhaps the most important therapy for all injuries is rehabilitation. This may be a home exercise program that your doctor outlines, or it may be a formal physical therapy program. You should have an understanding before leaving the office or hospital of what work is expected to rehabilitate the injury. Ask the following questions:
- What limitations are there for activity and work?
- What is the time frame for recovery?
- When is it safe to return to full activity?
- When should a reevaluation be scheduled?