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Best Exercises for Ankle Sprain Treatment

A woman showing the best exercises for ankle sprain treatment

Best Exercises for Ankle Sprain Treatment

After an ankle sprain, the goal of treatment is to restore pain-free range of motion of the ankle joint, strengthen the muscles around the ankle joint, improve balance, and prepare your ankle for regular activities.

Rehabilitation Schedule

After suffering an ankle sprain, you’ll notice that in addition to pain, you’ll also have joint stiffness and reduced range of motion of your ankle. It’s important to start range of motion exercises within the first three days after injury. Once you’re able to bear weight on your ankle with no increase in pain or swelling, you can continue with stretching, strength training, and balance training. Complete healing may take several weeks, and in some cases, months. The following section lists some exercises for ankle sprains. The trained professionals at Excel Physical Therapy can help you ensure that you are performing these exercises correctly.

Range of Motion Exercises

Active Planter Flexion and Dorsi Flexion

  • Begin in a seated position on the floor
  • Pull your foot up towards your shin as far as you can (dorsiflexion)
  • Hold this position for 2 to 3 seconds
  • Now, point your toes down towards the ground as far you can (plantar flexion)
  • Hold this position for 2 to 3 seconds
  • Keep alternating movements to establish a pumping motion
  • Aim for 2 sets of 15 repetitions in each direction 

Once the initial pain has subsided from your ankle sprain, you can begin lateral movements of the ankle joint. These exercises will stress the damaged ligaments. Therefore, you should let pain be your guide when performing these exercises. If you feel a significant increase in pain, discontinue these exercises for the time being.  

Active Eversion and Inversion

  • Begin in a seated position on the floor
  • Turn your foot so that the sole of your foot points outwards
  • Hold this position for 2-3 seconds
  • Now, turn your foot so that the sole of your foot points inwards
  • Hold this position for 2 to 3 seconds
  • Keep alternating movements
  • Aim for 2 sets of 15 repetitions in each direction 

Ankle Circles

  • Being in a seated position on the floor
  • Move your ankle joint slowly in a clockwise direction for 10 repetitions
  • Followed by moving your ankle joint in a counter clockwise direction for 10 repetitions

Ankle Alphabet

  • Move your ankle joint to “draw” all of the capital letters of the alphabet (A-Z)
  • Aim to “draw” the alphabet 1 to 3 times 

Try doing these range of motion exercises frequently throughout the day and follow them with elevation of the ankle along with the application of ice for 10 to 15 minutes.

Stretching Exercises

Gastrocnemius Stretch Using Wall

  • Begin by facing a wall and placing the injured ankle behind you
  • Slowly lean forward and place your hands against the wall
  • Ensure that your injured heel is in contact with the floor through the entire movement
  • Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds
  • Aim for 3 repetitions of this stretch
  • You should feel a stretch in the back of the lower leg on the injured side, if you don’t feel a stretch, try moving your leg further back.

Gastrocnemius Stretch Using a Step

  • Begin by standing backwards on the edge of a step
  • Slowly drop your heel on the injured side towards the ground
  • Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds
  • Aim for 3 repetitions of this stretch
  • You should feel a stretch in the back of the lower leg on the injured side. If you don’t feel a stretch, try dropping your heel further toward the floor.

Soleus Stretch with Wall

  • Begin in a standing position with your injured leg positioned behind
  • Bend your back leg and lean forwards against a wall while keeping your injured heel in contact with the floor
  • You should feel a stretch in the back of your lower leg, close to your ankle.

Towel Stretch

  • Begin in a seated position with your injured leg straight in front of you
  • Wrap a rolled towel under the ball of your foot and hold the towel on both ends
  • Lightly pull the towel to pull your foot towards you (ensure that your knee is straight during the movement)
  • Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds
  • Aim for 3 repetitions of this stretch
  • You should feel a stretch in the back of your lower leg and heel

Strengthening Exercises

Isometric Eversion

  • Begin seated in a chair next to a wall
  • Position your foot so that it’s on the floor and against the wall
  • Push the outside of your foot against the wall
  • Hold this position for 2-3 seconds
  • Slowly return to the starting position
  • Aim for 3 sets of 15 repetitions of this exercise

Isometric Inversion

  • Begin seated in a chair with both of your feet on the floor
  • Push the insides of your feet together
  • Hold this position for 2-3 seconds
  • Slowly return to the starting position
  • Aim for 3 sets of 15 repetitions of this exercise

Isometric Dorsiflexion

  • Begin seated in a chair with your injured foot on the floor
  • Take the heel of your other foot and position it on top of your injured foot
  • Use your top heel to push down while you push up with your injured foot
  • Hold this position for 2-3 seconds
  • Slowly return to the starting position
  • Aim for 3 sets of 15 repetitions of this exercise

Balance Exercises

Single Leg Stand with Arms to Side

  • Begin by standing only on your injured foot with your arms out to the side
  • Hold this position for as long as you can (up to 60 seconds)
  • Once you have mastered this exercise, move on to the single leg stand with arms across chest

Single Leg Stand with Arms across chest

  • Begin by standing only on your injured foot with your arms crossed over your chest
  • Hold this position for as long as you can (up to 60 seconds)
  • Once you have mastered this exercise, move on to the single leg stand with eyes closed

Single Leg Stand with Eyes Closed

  • Perform the above the single leg stand with your arms to the side with your eyes closed
  • Hold this position for as long as you can (up to 60 seconds)

Single Leg Stand on a Pillow

  • Begin by standing only on your injured foot on top of a pillow
  • Hold this position for as long as you can (up to 60 seconds)        

Conclusion

Ankle sprains are common injuries that can result in lifelong problems if they are not rehabilitated properly. The physical therapists at Excel Physical Therapy can guide you through the rehabilitation process and help to minimize your risk of suffering on-going ankle issues.  

 

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