Unfortunately, your ankles are one of the most susceptible joints when it comes to injuries – they have to bear your entire body weight daily, allow for jumping, side-stepping and landing safely, and also stop you abruptly when playing sports.
Every day wear-and-tear can weaken your ankles, especially if you’ve suffered an ankle sprain recently, and didn’t follow through with rehabilitation exercises.
Thankfully, ankle strengthening exercises can be utilized to take advantage of the surrounding ligaments and supporting muscle, to help give additional support and strength to the ankle.
Whether you’ve suffered a recently sprained ankle, or experienced one in the past, it’s never too late to do some targeted strengthening for the area.
However, do act quickly if it was a recent sprain – you can help cut down on scar tissue formation and long-term discomfort by getting started with rehab right away.
Sprained Ankle Swelling Reduction, Then Exercises
There are many movements and exercises that specifically work to strengthen the ankle, however, we won’t be able to use them until we’ve gotten the swelling down and have our ankle back to normal-size.
This is one of the most challenging portions of overall recovery – actually taking the time to use swelling reduction techniques, including contrast therapy as well as self-massage, before moving onto the strengthening exercises.
Contrast therapy, alternately between hot and cold water, should be done for a total of 10 minutes, five being spent on each temperature, allowing time in-between for the water to adjust.
This strategy is a great first step, and will improve circulation to the injured area – it’ll also help calm the area, eventually allowing the remaining swelling to be removed while your body continues to stabilize and heal your injured ligaments.
Following contrast therapy, utilizing a simple self-massage technique is next – using castor oil, start off by covering your entire foot and ankle – this gives you the ability to move smoothly over the injured area – the castor oil will also seep into your pores, providing additional healing benefits.
Using your thumbs, and starting near your toes, begin to apply pressure and move up your foot and ankle – apply firm pressure, but be careful of pressing too hard – try your best to use pain as your guide.
Focus on pushing the swelling up from your foot and ankle in the direction of your heart – your body will naturally process out the toxins and fluid buildup, dramatically helping to bring your swelling down.
It may take a few days for you to get your swelling down, so make sure to stay on track and be consistent – following an at-home rehab program can help keep you on schedule.
Three Best Ankle Exercises
While there are a lot different ankle strengthening exercises and movements, I like to specifically focus in on a few, rather than throwing everything and the kitchen sink in – it seems to make it easier to be consistent and also allows you to stay focused on just a few particular moves.
To start off, get in a comfortable position – either standing or sitting -rotate your ankle through its current range of motion, beginning with a clockwise rotation – these are called ankle circles.
After you’ve completed 10-15 rotations, switch directions and move your ankle through its current range-of-motion counterclockwise for another 10-15 rotations.
Next, hop up safely and find something sturdy to hold onto – the kitchen counter or a chair will work – get into an athletic stance and bend your knees slightly – rise up onto your toes, pushing through your calf muscles, pause for a moment at the top, and then lower yourself back down – this counts as one rep.
This movement is called a calf raise, and we’ll be doing 10-15 reps with as close to perfect form as possible – try holding the last couple reps for a few seconds at the top of the rep.
Dynamic stretching is a great way to calm your ankle and improve your range-of-motion – swelling generally causes both weakness and stiffness, which disrupts our mobility. By working in a front and side stretch, you can begin to help loosen up the surrounding ligaments and muscles.
By dynamic, I’m referring to moving through the stretch – you may also be familiar with static stretching, which is where you stretch fully and hold the position – we’ll be doing the opposite of a static stretch by moving through our current range-of-motion, for a count of five seconds – this will count as one rep.
While holding onto the chair in front of you, bring your injured leg back and tuck your toes underneath your foot – this first stretch is called a forward stretch, and will primarily stretch the front of your ankle.
As you count to five in your head, lean forward and gently apply more pressure to your foot – this will stretch the front of your ankle as much as currently possible – again, use pain as your general guide when stretching. Shoot for completing six, five second reps, for a total of 30 seconds of stretching.
Once you’ve completed the front stretch, untuck your toes and bring your leg in – set your foot on the ground and roll your injured ankle outward – we’ll refer to this as a side stretch, and it will target stretching the outside of your ankle.
While counting to five in your head, lean slightly outward while pushing through your current flexibility – once again, aim for six sets of five second reps for a total of 30 seconds of stretching.
Getting Started With an Ankle Strengthening Program
Even though ankle rehab exercises are a very important piece to a successful recovery, they’re not the only technique you should be using to recover from an ankle sprain.
If your ankle is still swollen and painful, you won’t be able to take advantage of the exercises for your sprained ankle anyways – if you’re interested in a speedy and comprehensive recovery, we have an in-depth, at-home rehabilitation program that you can get started with today, right now.
It’s been proven to super-charge the recovery phase by working with the natural healing processes of your body – by breaking your rehab into three easy to follow stages, it makes the program much easier to follow and allows you to get out of pain and back to what you love doing that much faster.
Start off by visiting our free consultation page, which will give you more details and answer any questions that you may still have – I look forward to getting you started with your rehabilitation today – all the best and take care of yourself.