Ankle sprains can sideline you for a few days, a few weeks or even longer, depending on the severity, but at some point, after the swelling subsides, it's important to initiate simple movement strategies to help stretch the area and strengthen it so the injury won't repeat itself.
Fortunately, the most common exercises recommended by experts, including the American Academy of Family Physicians, are simple to understand and easy to perform.
Believe it or not, the key to getting back on your feet isn't just to immobilize the ankle; it's actually to do the opposite: get it moving again and hopefully restore pain-free, strong range of motion again. Here are a few of the best exercises to get you started:
For Range of Motion
- Use a towel or band to pull the foot toward the face in a non-gravity position (lying down). Hold a pain-free stretch for 15-30 seconds; repeat four more times. Repeat exercise 3-5 times a day.
- Stand with heels on floor and bend at knees. Hold a pain-free stretch for 15-30 seconds. Perform five repetitions; repeat exercise 3-5 times a day.
- Draw letters of the alphabet (lowercase and uppercase) with affected foot. Repeat 4-5 times a day.
- Using wall, floor or opposite foot for resistance: push foot downward, pull foot upward, push foot inward and outward. Hold each position for 5 seconds, do 10 repetitions for each position, and repeat entire exercise sequence three times a day.
- With affected foot on towel, curl toes to move towel toward body. Perform 10 repetitions, twice a day. Can also curl toes throughout day during normal activities.
- Use toes of affected foot to pick up marbles or similar objects from floor. Perform 10 repetitions, twice a day.
- Walk forward and backward on toes and heels. Perform 10 repetitions of each direction (as tolerated); repeat twice per day.
Keep in mind that depending on the severity of the sprain and the types of activities you perform, you'll need to progress from these exercises to maneuvers that re-establish balance, postural control and a full functional return to activity. That means you'll need to build up to running / cutting / moving just like you did prior to the injury.
Also keep in mind that chiropractic care can be a great option as well, which your doctor of chiropractic can discuss with you along with the tips mentioned above. Click here for a great article on conservative care for ankle sprains that highlights exercise options and the potential for chiropractic care to assist in the rehab process.
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