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Physical Therapy for Ankle Impingement – Information, Exercises, and More

You don’t have to be an athlete to experience ankle impingement. While it’s more common amongst gymnasts, runners, and dancers, anyone performing repetitive tasks such as squatting or descending stairs is susceptible.

If you’re experiencing posterior or anterior ankle pain, you may wonder if physical therapy for ankle impingement will help. If so, what’s involved?

Luckily, the physical therapists at In Motion O.C. have treated many patients with ankle impingement. Here’s our advice for you.


physical therapy for ankle impingement


What Is Ankle Impingement?

There are two types of ankle impingement injuries to consider:

  • Anterior ankle impingement — involves pain, inflammation, and swelling on the front side of your ankle. This injury could eventually lead to bone spurs if not treated.
  • Posterior ankle impingement — involves pain on the back side of your ankle, primarily when pointing your toes, and is caused by compression of the bony tissue between the heel bone and the shin bone.

What Causes Ankle Impingement?

Anterior ankle impingement can be caused by repetitive jumping, squatting, or descending stairs. Ankle instability may be another cause. 

Looseness of the ankle joint may be caused by repeated ankle sprains. This can cause damage to the ligaments, which then become scarred and take up more space in the joint. 

The tissue is then compressed and causes pain during activities that require stretching of the toes toward the shin.

Posterior impingement may be caused by an extra bone in the back of the ankle that causes compression between the heel bone and the shin bone. Pain can be felt when toes are pointed.

When large amounts of force are placed on the ankle, small pieces of bone may break off and cause compression when the ankle moves the toes down toward the sole. This compression causes swelling and inflammation that leads to pain.

Ankle Impingement Symptoms

Anterior and posterior ankle impingement injuries have different causes and, therefore, different symptoms. 

Anterior Ankle Impingement Symptoms

You may be experiencing anterior ankle impingement if you have:

  • Instability in your ankle
  • Decreased range of motion when stretching your toes toward your shin
  • Pain on the outside and/or front of your ankle joint
  • Tenderness at the front of your ankle when touched
  • Pain at the end-range of stretching your toes toward your shin

Posterior Ankle Impingement Symptoms

You may be experiencing posterior ankle impingement if you have:

  • Limited range of motion when you point your toes
  • Pain or tenderness on the back of your ankle when touched
  • Pain at the back of your ankle during activities or when pointing toes

Physical Therapy for Ankle Impingement – Will PT Help?

Physical therapy is the number one treatment option for posterior and anterior ankle impingement. A physical therapist will customize a treatment plan based on a thorough medical examination, your medical history, and your goals.

Not only can a physical therapist help reduce pain and strengthen the ankle, but they can improve your overall balance and heal the affected area.

Ankle Impingement Treatment

Ankle impingement is usually treated through physical therapy, though surgery may be required if bone spurs occur. 

Typically, treatments include pain management and a variety of physical therapy exercises to improve the condition of the ankle. 

Pain Management

The first step in your treatment plan is to get your pain under control. This may involve icing, massage, or electrical stimulation if you are experiencing inflammation. 

Reducing the inflammation may also involve reduced physical activity. 

Balance Exercises

Balance exercises challenge the way your impaired ankle reacts to outside forces and bring awareness to where your body is. 

When you improve your balance, your ankle will stabilize and be better prepared to respond to these challenges.

Range-of-Motion Exercises

The gentle movement of the ankle through the available range of motion will decrease stiffness and increase mobility. These movements may be applied manually by a physical therapist or performed on your own.

A physical therapist may also perform joint mobilizations, which involve gently and skillfully moving the joint in a specific direction to increase its range of motion.

Muscle-Strengthening Exercises

Proper muscle strength is needed to promote proper joint mechanics in the foot, ankle, and lower leg.

When your muscles are properly strengthened and working well, the space in the ankle joint is maintained. This decreases the risk of compression of the bony or soft tissues.

Functional Training

As your pain subsides and your inflammation decreases, you will progress to functional training. 

Your physical therapist will work with you to perform activity-specific tasks to ensure your ankle can withstand the physical demands of athletic, occupational, or leisure activities.

Physical Therapy Exercises for Ankle Impingement

While every treatment plan is different, some common exercises performed during physical therapy for ankle impingement are listed below.

It is recommended to perform each exercise under the supervision of a physical therapist until you have been cleared to exercise at home. 

Range-of-Motion: Standing Calf Stretch

  • Stand in front of a wall or chair for balance
  • Step the affected foot back into a lunge while keeping both feet facing forward
  • Keep your back knee straight and both feet planted on the floor as you shift your weight to your front foot and bend the front knee until you feel a stretch
  • Hold for 30+ seconds for 2-3 sets per leg

This exercise can also be done while standing on a step or using a stretch strap.

Strengthening: Ankle Plantarflexion

  • Place a resistance band around your midfoot and secure both ends with your hands
  • Put your leg in front of you with and with an appropriate amount of resistance gently put the midfoot down like you’re pushing on a gas pedal and point your toes
  • Hold the position as far as you can for 1-2 seconds and then slowly return to your starting position
  • Repeat the exercise 10-15 times for 2-3 sets per leg

Balance: Single-Leg Balance

  • Step onto the center of a foam pad or balancing disc using a chair or wall for balance
  • Put your weight onto the leg you’ll be standing on and lift the opposite leg
  • Use a focal point or your hands to help maintain your balance if needed
  • Hold the position for 30-60 seconds for 2-3 sets per leg

Functional: Single-Leg Deadlift

  • Standing near a wall or chair for balance, step onto your balance device
  • Keep your back straight and abs engaged as you hinge forward at the hip, bringing your chest parallel to the ground and your free leg straight and up toward the ceiling (or as far as you can go)
  • With control, slowly return to your starting position
  • Repeat the exercise 10-15 times for 2-3 sets per leg

How In Motion O.C. Can Help With Ankle Impingement

In Motion O.C. can treat your ankle impingement injury through exercises and treatments tailored to your needs.

Our physical therapists have helped hundreds of patients recover from various ailments.

In Motion O.C. is #1 among physical therapists on Yelp! and Googleand we have the testimonials to prove it.

Let our therapists work with you to determine the best approach for your recovery through customized physical therapy for ankle impingement

Contact us. today.


The content in this blog should not be used in place of direct medical advice/treatment and is solely for informational purposes.

In Motion O.C.