Treating a sprained ankle can help prevent future ankle problems so here we outline some of the most commonly recommended sprained ankle exercises.
Many people don’t take a sprained ankle seriously but this is an injury that can lead to lifelong problems. For example, some individuals experience repeated strains that cause long-term joint pain and weakness. Exercises for a sprained ankle are important if you want to completely heal.
A sprained ankle happens when bands of tissue called ligaments stretch or tear. Depending of the severity of the sprain, crutches may or may not be required and rehabilitation exercises may be recommended.
Phases for Sprained Ankle Exercises
Sprained ankle rehab exercises can include stretching, strength training, and balance exercises. It may be helpful to know that there are three phases for sprained ankle recovery exercises.
- Phase one – In the first phase, the objective is to reduce pain and swelling in the ankle. Rest and applying ice or even wearing an elastic bandage for one to seven days after the sprain is part of phase one. If it is a more serious sprain, you might need to wear a walking boot or use crutches. Elevating your ankle can help reduce the swelling. Isometric ankle exercises are allowed in this phase. They involve pushing your foot in a specific direction against resistance but not moving your ankle. Pushing your foot against a wall is an example.
- Phase two – After about 72 hours or when the swelling and pain start to lessen, you can engage in light ankle exercises to help gain flexibility and strength. Ankle circles are a phase two exercise. Exercise should be performed several times throughout the day.
- Phase three – When normal ankle flexibility has returned, you can begin phase three. This phase includes sport-specific exercises. They are similar to daily activities. An example is running for a few minutes. Sport-specific or functional exercises, as they are called, are usually performed for two to three days per week and not on consecutive days.
Various Exercises for Sprained Ankle
A sprained ankle is a common injury – every day, about 25,000 people suffer this type of sprain.
Let’s take a look at the different exercises for a sprained ankle, beginning with range-of motion exercises.
This sprained ankle exercise calls for you to trace the alphabet with your toe. This means you will be moving the ankle in all directions. Trace the alphabet up to three times in a day.
Sitting knee exercise
Sitting in a chair with your foot flat on the floor, slowly move your knee from side to side. Keep your foot pressed flat. Do this for about three minutes.
This is another range-of-motion exercise. While sitting, you place your foot on a towel that is on the floor and then scrunch it up with your toes. Once you have scrunched it, push the towel away with your toes.
Since most ankle sprains happen when your foot turns inward too much, which is a movement called inversion, an exercise specifically for limited inversion can be helpful in terms of improving range of motion. An example exercise would be to turn your foot inward until you start to feel discomfort or as far as you can turn inward. Hold this position for about 15 seconds and return to the neutral position. Repeat the inward motion 10 times. If there is any pain on the outer side of the ankle, stop doing the exercise. Inversion helps stretch the Achilles tendon, which is an important part of ankle movement. The Achilles tendon is a band of fibrous tissue that connects the calf muscles to the heel bone.
This is the opposite of inversion. It means moving your foot outwards. Sometimes you can’t move your foot outwards after a period of resting the ankle. To regain motion, you can turn your foot outward at the ankle until you either feel discomfort or you simply can’t turn your foot any farther. Hold this position for 15 seconds and then return to the neutral position. Repeat the eversion exercise up to 10 more times. Like inversion exercises, eversion helps stretch the Achilles tendon. A tight Achilles tendon is prone to tears.
Stretching exercises like the towel stretch are just as important as range-of-motion exercises. For this stretching exercise, you sit with your leg straight out in front of you. Put a rolled towel under the ball of your foot and hold the towel at both ends. Slowly and gently pull the towel toward you as you keep your knee straight. Hold this position for up to 30 seconds.
Stand facing a wall with your hands against the wall at eye level. Place the leg you want to stretch one step behind your other leg and keeping your back heel on the floor, bend your front knee until you feel a gentle stretch in the back of your leg. Hold for up to 30 seconds and then repeat a few times.
This is a strengthening exercise that requires you to sit with your foot flat on the floor. You simply push your foot outward against an immovable object. It can be a piece of furniture or a wall. Push for a few seconds, relax, and repeat. Once you are comfortable with this movement, you can try using rubber tubing looped around the outside of your feet for resistance. Simply push your foot against the side of the tubing and count to 10 as you bring your foot back to the middle position.
While sitting, put your feet flat on the floor and then press your injured foot inward against your other foot. Hold this for about six seconds and release. You can then place the heel of your other foot on top of the injured foot. Push down with the top of your heel and push up with your injured foot. Hold for about six seconds and relax.
Outward resistance exercise
Outward resistance will help strengthen the front of the ankle. Sit in a chair and loop an exercise band over the outside of the injured foot. You have to tie the ends to a sturdy desk or chair. Keeping your foot and knee in line, push your foot outward against the band, hold for a few seconds, and release. You should try to do a set of 20 repetitions at least five days a week. This is similar to the foot pushing exercise.
Inward resistance exercise
Place a resistance band over the inside of your injured foot, as opposed to the outside. Keep your foot and knee inline and pull your foot inward. You should try to hold for three seconds before releasing. Do three sets of 20 repetitions at least five days a week.
Balancing routines are good sprained ankle exercises. Try to stand on just your injured foot while holding your arms out to your sides. If you feel unsteady, then stand in a doorway so that you can reach out with your hands and grasp the door’s frame for support. Balance for as long as you can. You can also try standing on your injured foot and holding your arms against your chest with your eyes open for 60 seconds. Some people start out with balancing on their injured leg with their eyes open and when they are comfortable, they try doing it with their eyes closed.
Toss a pillow down on the floor and stand on it with your injured leg. Hold this position for up to 10 seconds. Be careful not to fall over as you are attempting this balance exercise.
An ankle injury can bring you down since it limits your ability to walk normally and take part in the activities you enjoy. If you have an ankle sprain, talk to a doctor or physiotherapist about sprained ankle exercises so you can get back to doing what you love and avoid a relapse.
- Swollen ankles in elderly: Causes, natural treatment, and exercises
- Sprained ankle risk may be influenced by foot positioning during walking, running