Sprain That Won't Heal....

Updated on July 01, 2010
S.K. asks from Lakeside, CA
8 answers

I did something to my ankle and don't even know what. I researched stress fractures when the pain lasted a month. Everything I read said they don't show up early on X-Ray. I waited 2 more months to make sure that if it was cracked it would show up. I had it X-rayed yesterday and they say it's sprained. So I've had a sprained ankle for 3 months and the pain has been up and down, at times unbearable and at times not too bad.

My question is about massage therapy. Has anyone ever used massage therapy to work muscles that were pulled and or sprained? The bones are showing just fine and she said there's no sign of arthritis. But the ankle is swollen and ranges from just a little swollen to sometimes quite a bit swollen. I've had bloodwork done in the past and they've never found any evidence of rhumetoid arthritis. I do have fibromyalgia. But most fibro pain doesn't come with swelling. Unfortunately, they want me to do physical therapy and it turns out our insurance barely pays for any and I can't afford it. Massage therapy would be a lot cheaper. Any ideas?

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answers from Boston on

I'm going on 2 months with a sprained ankle. I went to the doctor and they told me it would take a few more weeks to heal. They said the only real way to make it better was to keep it up and with 3 boys that is not going to happen for me. They also said it would take longer to heal each time my ankle gets sprained. This is my second sprain in 2 years.
So, the only real thing that has helped for me is to keep it wrapped up with and Ace bandage and I will ice it at night. When I don't wrap my ankle it swells up so much.

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answers from Seattle on

I hate sprains. They take months and months to heal... and if I do too much it just takes even longer.

A sprain SOUNDS better than a broken bone, but it's not. A twisted ankle, sure, that heals fairly quickly. But a break heals soooooo much faster than a sprain.

Absolutely do the physical therapy. At this point, I've sprained my ankles so many times I don't need it, because I know the drill. Wait 2-3 months, then slowly start the exercises that get the tendons and ligaments and muscles back in shape. Too much, too soon just makes everything worse and take even longer to heal.

In general, when I sprain my stupid right ankle, it takes 6 months to be back to "normal". My worst sprain, however, I had to wait 6 months before beginning the PT on it, and it took a whole year to be back at 100%.

Massage can be helpful NOT for the injury, but for the surrounding muscles which get sore, because you're using them more to compensate. Massage on the injury itself, usually makes it worse. My MP is actually a sports medicine person. When I'm injured, she avoids the injury and surrounding area completely... but will work on the opposite leg, and on the unaffected muscles, tendons, and ligaments above the injury.

Go to PT at least once or twice. Explain that that is all that you can do, and they will show you everything that you need to do and give you a timeline and a stack of printouts showing the exercises and when to do them, along with how to know when you've done too much. The hardest exercise to do at home is one of the most important. Strengthening the lateral muscles requires rolling your ankle on a platform with a ball and weights. Oft times I think I'll be fully healed but still have "numb" spots laterally. Until I've reennervated and restrengthened those numb spots using the stupid ball contraption I'm at risk for reinjury.

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answers from Portland on

Just a gentle warning: My mom got a shoulder injury (like you, from no apparent cause), and had massage and chiropractic treatments for several months before learning she had a torn tendon. The "cheaper" treatments were only making it worse. She finally had surgery to reattach the tendon, and now is looking at 8 months or so of p.t. after all.

Another odd possibility: I broke the synovial capsule in my wrist before Christmas last year, and for about six months the fluid that was supposed to be lubricating movement was leaking out into a big puff on my wrist and thumb. No heat or redness, but the joints would lock up painfully and ache like crazy. Keeping it wrapped tightly kept more of the fluid where it belonged and minimized pain. But I finally got desperate enough to buy myself a brace that limited hand movement, kept pressure on the injury for about a week, and it healed. Just when I was about to give up on it.

Assuming you're dealing with a straight-ahead sprain, you may get real support for the healingn process through three topical creams you can get at a nearby health-food store: Arniflora or Triflora by Boerke and Tafel, or Traumeel by Heel. I like to alternate them every few hours.

Keeping the ankle wrapped, and icing it for 20 minutes at a time when you do get a chance to put your feet up can speed the healing process. If you're not already using aspirin or ibuprofen, either is good to reduce inflammation. Good luck – this is such a drag when you've got a household to run.

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answers from Chicago on

Think about why massage therapy is cheaper - a massage therapist only needs about 12 months of training and/or an associates degree to be certified. A physical therapist, on the other hand, is required to have a Masters degree at minimum and is trained to deal with specific injuries. Who do you want working on a problematic health issue? Don't get me wrong - I love a good massage and for general issues I wouldn't hesitate to seek out a massage therapist (they're awesome!). However, your ankle sprain has taken a long time to heal so you may wish to seek out an expert who has specific training and expertise in this particular injury. For my money, I'd pick the physical therapist.

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answers from Tulsa on

get a second opinion sounds more like a hairline fracture. sometimes hairlines don't show up on xrays

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answers from Fort Wayne on

I don't think I'd seek massage therapy for the condition you're describing. There are lots of exercises you can do at home to strengthen your ankles. I'm sure if you google it, you'll find something. In the meantime, stay off of your ankle as much as you can and ice it.

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answers from Austin on

A little over a year ago, I severely sprained my ankle--or so I thought... Actually, I tore the 2 primary ligaments that work in unison with the ankle joint. Unfortunately, torn ligaments are not injuies that can grow back together. Sometimes it really hurt (especially laying in bed); other times it was less annoying.

A torn ligament doesn't show up on x-rays; had to get a MRI for it to be visible and diagnosed. Then, had orthopedic ankle surgery to reconnect the ligaments, followed a month of recovery and a few months of physical therapy. However, I'm glad I went to an orthopedic sports doctor who could treat it; it's so much better now... No longer in pain and better support for when I'm walking/exercising.

The "rolled ankle" that tore the ligaments also caused a stress fracture (which I understood was not the same as a hairline fracture). So, you could have a number if injuries... Possibly ligament damage, a stress fracture and a hairline fracture, none of which may be showing on an xray.

And, of course, it could be a super bad sprain... Sprains can take months to heal, even longer if you're not recovering "correctly"--which means you need to be icing your ankle 3-4 times a day for 20-30 minutes each time and committed to only wearing shoes with good arch support (athletic shoes, and absolutely no heels). If you've already done the ice and the athletic shoes for several weeks and it's not improving, you might need an orthopedic doctor or podiatrist and and MRI to diagnose/treat it.

Best of luck!

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answers from Redding on

Take it from me...an actual sprain can be worse than a broken bone because it can involve tendons and ligaments and it can be very painful.
Keep your ankle elevated, alternate ice and heat as much as possible.
If they recommend physical therapy, it's likely to strengthen your muscles and soft tissues. Most exercises can be done at home.

I've had sprains and broken bones. Neither is fun. But sprains can take a while.

I wish you the best.

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