Ankle sprains are a common concern for many people engaged in physical activities. Whether you’re an athlete or someone who enjoys a casual jog, you’re susceptible to this type of injury. Lateral ankle sprains, in particular, are a common problem many people face.
But don’t worry; there are several techniques that you can utilise to aid in your recovery and help improve the range of motion in your ankle joints. Here are five techniques to consider, often recommended by a physical therapist for effectively rehabilitating an injured ankle.
Range of motion exercises
- Please take a seat by placing your feet flat on the ground.
- Lift your injured foot slightly off the ground.
- Begin making circles in the air with your toes. Rotate your ankle clockwise for about 10–15 seconds, and then switch to anticlockwise circles for the same duration.
- Ensure that the circles are controlled and smooth, focusing on the full range of motion.
- Get comfy and stretch out those legs in front of you.
- Place a towel or a resistance band around the sole of your injured foot, holding both ends of the towel.
- Gently pull the towel towards you while keeping your knee straight, which will cause your ankle to flex.
- You should feel a gentle stretch in the calf and the back of your ankle, but there should be no pain.
- Hold the stretch for 20–30 seconds and let go.
- Repeat this stretch 2–3 times, making sure not to force your ankle into uncomfortable positions.
These exercises will help improve the flexibility and range of motion in your ankle joint, which is crucial for regaining normal function after an ankle sprain. As with any rehabilitation exercise, start slowly and gradually increase the intensity and duration as your ankle heals and gains strength. If you experience any pain or discomfort while performing these exercises, it’s important to stop and consult with a healthcare professional or physical therapist for guidance.
Incorporating resistance band workouts and ankle weights into your ankle sprain rehabilitation can be beneficial for regaining strength and stability. However, it’s crucial to use these tools under the guidance of a physical therapist or healthcare professional to ensure that they are appropriate for your specific stage of recovery and that you perform them safely. Here’s a bit more detail on how to use resistance bands and ankle weights:
Resistance band workouts
- Sit with your legs extended on a flat surface.
- Loop a resistance band around your injured foot, making sure it’s secure.
- Take hold of the band’s other end, firmly grasping it with your own delicate hand.
- Move your ankle inward (inversion) and outward (eversion) against the resistance of the band.
- Perform a controlled and smooth motion, focusing on strengthening the muscles that support the ankle.
- Start with a light resistance band and gradually increase the resistance as your strength improves.
- Ankle weights can be used to add resistance to various ankle exercises once you’ve regained some strength and range of motion.
- Common exercises include ankle dorsiflexion and plantarflexion (moving your foot up and down against gravity), and resistance can be added using ankle weights.
- Consult with your physical therapist to determine the appropriate weight to use, and start with a lighter weight to avoid overloading your ankle too soon.
- Perform exercises with ankle weights in a controlled manner, and focus on maintaining proper form.
It’s essential to follow your physical therapist’s recommendations and guidance regarding the type and intensity of resistance exercises, as they will tailor your rehabilitation programme to your specific needs and progress.
Balance and stability training
- Unstable surfaces. Exercises on unstable surfaces like wobble boards can help improve your ankle stability and minimise the risk of injuries, including recurrent ankle sprains.
- Ankle braces. Wearing ankle braces can provide extra support for your injured ankle, particularly when you’re ready to return to physical activities. This can help prevent chronic ankle instability.
Acute treatment and conservative treatment
In the initial stages, acute treatment for acute ankle sprains often involves the RICE (rest, ice, compression, elastic bandage) method to minimise swelling. Following that, your physical therapist may recommend conservative treatment involving exercises and stretches to rehabilitate your injured ankle effectively.
Injury prevention programme
- Immobilisation of ankle sprains. For severe medial and lateral ankle sprains, your physical therapist may suggest immobilisation initially to allow the calcaneofibular ligaments and the tibiofibular ligament to heal.
- Risk and recurrent injury. Finally, consider an injury prevention programme that includes motion exercises and possibly even ankle braces to reduce the risk of recurrent injury.
Rehabilitation from ankle injuries, particularly lateral ankle sprains, is a multi-step process. Incorporating a range of techniques, from towel stretches to using resistance bands, all under the guidance of a skilled physical therapist, can make a significant difference in your recovery. By taking these steps, you can effectively treat your sprained ankle, regain your range of motion, and return to regular physical activities with a decreased risk of injury.
Consult your physical therapist for a personalised treatment plan, especially if you’re dealing with chronic ankle instability. They will provide expert advice tailored to your needs, aiding in your recovery and helping prevent recurrent ankle sprains.
Ellen Diamond, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.