So you took a misstep and now your ankle isn’t quite up to speed. Ankle sprains are common and can happen to anyone. While overstretching your ligament doesn’t sound like a big deal, it could be. Without proper treatment, your ankle may not get the support it needs, and you could sprain your ankle again.
At Jersey Foot & Ankle Institute, serving the greater Hillsborough, New Jersey area, board certified podiatrist Dr. Ankur Dharia specializes in all foot and ankle issues. To help your recover from a sprained ankle and prevent a repeat performance, Dr. Dharia encourages patients to regularly completed strengthening exercises. Here are his five key tips on how to do this.
Start your exercise program early
Your instinct may be to rest your ankle after a sprain, and you’re not entirely wrong. But you don’t want to wait too long before you start your exercise program. Keeping your ankle immobile for too long may delay your recovery or make your exercise program all that more difficult to implement.
We can provide guidelines on when to start your ankle-strengthening program. In general, we may suggest rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) for the first two or three days after your injury. Then around day three, you can start to gently put weight on your injured ankle. If needed, we may recommend you use crutches for support when attempting the weight-bearing exercises.
Practice your ABCs
Keeping your ankle immobilized, even for just a few days, can allow your leg muscles to stiffen. Think about how you feel when you wake up in the morning after being somewhat immobile for several hours while you sleep. The same thing happens to your leg when you can’t use it for a few days.
To get your muscles back in the game, you need to do what we call range-of-motion exercises to help wake up those stiff muscles by doing your ABCs. While sitting in a straight-back chair, trace the alphabet on the floor with the toes of your affected ankle. Repeat up to three times a day.
Give it a good stretch
To improve ankle flexibility, you need to give your muscles and tendons a good stretch. If you’re not yet ready to put weight on your ankle, try a towel stretch. Place a long rolled towel under your foot, grab both ends with your hands and raise the towel up while keeping your knee straight. Hold for 15-30 seconds. This exercise stretches your Achilles tendon and calf muscle.
If your ankle sprain is severe, you may not be able to bring the towel up very far. But don’t give up. Keep at it so that your muscles don’t stiffen and delay your recovery.
Range-of-motion exercises and stretching are vital to your recovery and can help you get to the ankle-strengthening exercises faster. You shouldn’t start these strengthening exercises until we give you the go-ahead. Ideally, you should be able to bear weight on your ankle with minimal to no discomfort before you transition to these types of exercises.
- Push out: While sitting in a sturdy straight-back chair, place your foot up against the wall and push, holding for 3 seconds.
- Push-up: While sitting in the same chair, place your healthy foot in top of your injured foot and gently push down while pushing up with the injured foot. Hold for 3 seconds.
- Push-in: With your feet placed together, push them against each other, holding for 3 seconds.
To get the most benefits, you should complete up to 20 repetitions of each exercise three times a day most days of the week.
Restore balance to prevent another injury
The most common cause of a repeat ankle sprain is poor balance. Regaining your balance is imperative for your recovery. While standing on your injured ankle, raise up your good foot and hold for as long as you can with a goal of 1 minute.
If you find that you’re too unsteady to balance, stand in a doorway and grab onto the frame when you feel yourself losing balance. Repeat on your good leg to help maintain strength and balance.
We may refer you to physical therapy for extra help with strengthening your ankle.
An ankle sprain may sound like a no-big-deal injury, but without the right care, your injury can lead to more problems. For care of a sprained ankle, and all of your foot and ankle needs, contact Dr. Ankur Dharia by phone or using the online booking tool. At Jersey Foot & Ankle Institute, your feet are always in good hands.