Physiotherapy after an ankle injury has been proven to greatly improve the speed of recovery and optimize healing. Research shows that physiotherapy and exercise may reduce the occurrence of recurrent ankle sprains and may be effective in managing chronic ankle instability. The following are ten exercises to start after you injure your ankle. They target the supporting muscles of the ankle as well as proprioception and balance which are critical to address during rehabilitation.
(Please make sure you check with your physiotherapist before starting these exercises, and don’t do any which increase symptoms or pain!)
2. Calf Stretch: Your calf muscle runs along the backside of your lower leg. This muscle goes down and becomes the Achilles Tendon at the back of the ankle. Depending on the ankle injury and the length of time the joint was immobilized, this muscle can get quite tight. To stretch the calf, stand on a stair with your heel off the edge. Let gravity and your body weight allow your heel to dip below the stairs edge. You should feel a stretch behind your leg. Alternatively, lean against a wall with the ball of your injured leg propped up on the wall. Lean forward and feel the pull in your calf muscle. Hold this for at least 30 seconds and repeat 3 times.
3. Dorsiflexion: Seated, pull your toes upwards, than lower your foot back to the ground. This exercises strengthens the muscles running down the front of your lower leg, and can help increase range of motion. To increase the difficulty of this exercise, use your other foot to resist your injured foot from lifting off the ground. Do this exercises 20 times.
4. Forward lunge on chair: This exercise aims to increase flexibility in the ankle. Place your injured ankle on a chair. Your knee should be bent, and shift your bodyweight forward so your knee extends over your toes. You should feel the available range of motion in your ankle, then try to push a little bit further as long as there is no pain. Hold the end range for about 30 seconds. Repeat 3 times.
5. One Leg Stance: Balancing on your injured leg will help strengthen the stabilizers of the ankle and will help increase your proprioception. This is an easy exercise, simply stand on your injured leg and balance there for 2 minutes, twice a day. To progress this exercise try closing your eyes, or tossing a ball up in the air, or standing on a pillow/uneven surface.
6. Calf Raise: This exercise is to strengthen the muscles at the back of your leg below your knee. Stand holding onto the back of a chair. Slowly rise up onto your tiptoes, and then lower back to standing. Repeat this 20 times. To progress this exercise you can hold light weights, do it on one leg, or perform the exercise on a stair with your heels hanging off the edge.
7. Resisted Eversion: Use a sold surface as resistance. Against the resistance, try and turn your foot outwards. Hold this for 15 seconds and then relax. Repeat 10 times. This exercise works on the evertors of the ankle.
8. Plantarflexion with resistance: Put a piece of tubing/theraband under the ball of your injured foot. Keeping the resistance on, attempt to point your toe. Then return to neutral. Do this exercise 12 times for 3 sets.
9. Squats on a wobble board: To increase proprioception and balance, stand on a wobble board and squat down in a slow and controlled manner. Then return to standing. Repeat this 10 times and do 3 sets. If you do not have access to a wobble board, perform the same movement on a pillow, or try on one leg.
10. Bend and Reach: Stand on your injured leg and slowly reach down to the floor while extending your other leg behind you. You should hinge forward at the hips and bend the supporting knee slightly. Then return to upright. Try this 10 times on each leg. To progress this exercise, place objects on the floor around you that you need to touch, or hold the position for a few seconds.