Exercises for Sprained Ankle Ligaments

exercises-for-sprained-ankle-ligamentsAnkle sprains are a common injury to one or more of the ligaments on the outer side of your ankle.  Depending on the severity of the injury, the ligaments may become stretched, or in worse injuries the ligaments are actually torn.

You may have a sprained ankle if you have tenderness, swelling, and stiffness after twisting your ankle.  Ignoring a sprain will not make it go away, but it can actually become more aggravated if left untreated.  Early treatment of a sprained ankle will help it to heal quickly and can prevent future injuries.

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Types of Exercises

Rehabilitation is the process of restoring strength and mobility to the ankle.  This is done through exercises which help revive the range of motion, strengthen muscles and improve proprioception. Mobility and stretching exercises help to prevent stiffness and improve range of motion.

Strengthening exercises use resistance and weight to rebuild muscle strength.   Balance exercises teach your body to control the position of the injured ankle.  Functional exercises include sport specific moves, direction changes, and sideways movements.

Mobility and Stretching Exercises

Mobility and stretching exercises can be started almost immediately after the injury has been sustained.  These exercises are simple and can be done while sitting in a chair.  Trace the alphabet with your toes.

This involves moving your ankle in multiple directions to help increase mobility.  Repeat three times.  For the next exercise, put your foot flat on the floor and slowly move your knee side to side while keeping your foot pressed to the floor.  This will help stretch the ankle relieving stiffness. Continue for two to three minutes.

Strengthening Exercises

Once you can bear weight on the injured ankle, you can begin strengthening exercises.  These should be done once to twice daily until the injury has healed. When performing the exercises, place the center of a fitness band or towel around your foot and hold the ends in your hand to create tension on your foot and ankle. Perform these exercises from a seated position for three sets of 20:

  • Extend your leg and point your toes downward. Pull the band towards you to create tension.
  • Raise your foot off the floor and bend your foot to the left. Pull the band to the right to create tension.
  • Raise your foot off the floor and bend your foot to the right. Pull the band to the left to create tension.
  • If you have someone else to hold the ends of the band, use the band to create tension across the top of your foot while flexing the foot.

Balance Exercises

Balance exercises can be done at any point in your rehabilitation once you are able to bear weight on the injured ankle.  Perform these exercises five times each, once a day with the goal of increasing to twice a day as they become easier.

  • Stand on a flat surface on one leg with arms out, and balance for as long as possible.
  • Stand on a flat surface on one leg with arms at your side for as long as possible.
  • Stand on a flat surface on one leg with your arms where comfortable, close your eyes and balance for as long as possible.
  • Stand on an unstable surface (BOSU ball, towel, pillow, etc.) and balance for as long as possible.

Functional Exercises

Functional exercises are designed to load the ankle in sport specific movements and should be geared toward your particular sport once you are nearing the end of your rehabilitation.  These exercises should include explosive movements, direction changes, and lateral and sideways lounges.

At this point, you can also incorporate drills that are used in your particular sport.  Gradually pick up the pace and intensity until you are fully healed. Some exercises to try when your ankle is ready:

  • Variable pace running
  • Running a serpentine through cones
  • Lunges
  • Heel toe walk
  • Hopping
  • Box jumps
  • Stepping

Precautions

Remember that it’s better to take it slower in the beginning and make sure you are ready before moving to more challenging exercises. Do not continue with any exercises that cause pain in your ankle. A minimal amount of soreness is to be expected, but stop at anything beyond that.

Ignoring pain during your rehab exercises may actually make the injury worse.  In general, ankle exercises will help heal a sprained ankle very quickly, especially when combined with the other techniques such as the H.E.M. Ankle Rehab Program. The faster you begin the healing process, the more effective your rehab will be.

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