Ankle Sprain Exercises

Ankle sprains are common in sports or when walking or running. They occur when the ligaments of the foot or lower leg get torn or are stretched too far. Exercises for stretching, range-of-motion, and strengthening can rehabilitate a sprained ankle.

Stretching Exercises

1.        Calf stretches, specifically those that target the Achilles or calcaneal tendon, will help rehabilitate a sprained ankle. However, these should not be done unless your doctor or physical therapist advices them because depending on the degree of sprain you may need to rest the sprain for some time. How long depends on the individual injury. The gentlest way to stretch the calf is to sit on the floor and wrap a towel, exercise cable or strap under the ball of your foot and pull your toes back. Your leg should be straight as you do this. You should not attempt to hold them back long but instead focus on doing many repetitions, such as 15 to 20. Three or more times a day is ideal.

Range-of-Motion Exercises

2.       Some simple exercises to move your ankle through its entire range of motion (ROM) are often the first thing you should do, sometimes even right after injury. You can sit in a chair and place your injured foot flat on the floor. Position your knee directly above your ankle. Keep all parts of your foot touching the floor and move your knee slowly inwards and then outwards 10 to 30 times. Do not let your ankle roll or move your foot. This will challenge the movements of the ligaments and tendons. Another easy ROM exercise is to lift your foot off the floor and spell out every letter of the alphabet with your big toe in the air. This will ensure that your ankle moves in every possible direction.

Do both exercises three or more times a day.

Strengthening Exercises

3.       When doing strengthening exercises for a sprained ankle, you will want to focus on isometric exercises, which means you are pushing against an object to activate your muscles but not moving through a ROM. For example, place your foot next to a wall with the outside of the foot touching it. It will be easiest if you are sitting in a chair. Push your foot against the wall by lifting the arch of your foot and allowing your weight to be on the outside edge of your foot. This is called ankle eversion. You can do ankle inversion too by using your opposite foot to push against. Bring your feet together and push the inside of your sprained foot against your good foot. Hold each isometric push for 3 to 5 seconds. Try for 15 to 20 repetitions in each direction.


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