Ankle Sprain Physical Therapy
Physical Therapy for Ankle Sprain – Information, Exercises, and More
You didn’t see the curb on the end of the sidewalk.
One wrong step and your ankle twists.
The searing pain you are experiencing in your ankle could be a symptom of an ankle sprain.
In this guide, we’ll go over the how and why of ankle sprains and whether ankle sprain physical therapy is the treatment you need.
Ankle Sprain Grades
The severity of an ankle sprain injury is measured by three ankle sprain grades:
- Grade 1: The ligaments could be stretched or have a mild tear. There is minimal pain with walking and mild tenderness and swelling.
- Grade 2: There is an incomplete ligament tear with moderate pain. Walking is painful and there is a moderate amount of swelling, tenderness, and bruising.
- Grade 3: There is a complete tear of the affected ligaments, and walking is not possible without intense pain. The ankle is severely swollen and bruised.
Range of Motion Exercises
This type of exercise is commonly the first step on your road to recovery.
Some range-of-motion exercises that may be recommended by your PT include:
- Towel curls: Sit in a chair and place your foot on a towel on the floor. Using your toes, scrunch the towel toward you and then push the towel away from you. As you gain more strength, you can add weight to the towel.
- Alphabet tracing: Use your foot to trace the alphabet 1 to 3 times. This encourages you to move your ankle in all directions.
Range of motion exercises can help to restore the range of motion in your ankle to a normal standard.
Stretching the Achilles tendon is an important part of restoring stability to the ankle joint.
Some stretching exercises that your PT may recommend include:
- Calf stretch: In the standing position, face the wall with your hands on the wall at eye level. Place your stretching leg about one step behind your other leg while keeping your heel on the floor. Bend your front knee until you feel a stretch in the back leg and hold for about 15 to 30 seconds.
- Towel stretch: in the sitting position, put your legs out in front of you and place a rolled towel under the ball of your foot. Holding the towel at both ends, keep your leg straight, and gently pull the towel toward you. Hold for about 15- to 30 seconds and repeat 2 to 4 times.
By stretching the Achilles tendon, you can significantly reduce your chances of re-injury.
Strengthening exercises typically begin when you can withstand completing the exercises without increased pain.
Some strengthening exercises that may be recommended by your PT include:
1. In the sitting position, put your injured foot flat on the floor and push it outward against an immovable object, like heavy furniture or the wall. Hold for six seconds, then relax.
Once you are comfortable with this exercise, try using an exercise band or rubber tubing looped around the outside of your feet to create resistance. Move your foot side to side against the tubing and hold for 10 seconds on each side.
2. In the sitting position, put your feet flat on the floor and press your injured foot inward toward your other foot. Then, place the heel of your uninjured foot on top of the injured foot and push down with the top of the heel while trying to push up with your injured foot. Hold each of these for 6 seconds and then relax.
These exercises aim to strengthen the muscles around your ankle joint that help support and keep it in place. Try doing 8 to 12 repetitions once or twice a day for up to 4 weeks.
Once you can withstand bearing weight without pain, you may begin working on exercises that pertain to balance and control.
Some balance exercises that may be recommended by your PT include:
- While standing on the injured foot, hold your arms out to the side with your eyes open. If you feel unsteady at first, do this exercise in a doorway for additional support. Work toward holding the position for 60 seconds. You can switch to holding your arms across your chest once you reach 60 seconds.
- Now, try the same exercise as above, but this time close your eyes. Continue to use the doorway for added support until you can hold the position for 60 seconds. From there, hold your arms across your chest and repeat the above exercise with your eyes closed. Practice until you have reached 60 seconds.
These types of exercises help restore balance and joint control to help prevent re-injury and should be practiced once a day for six repetitions each.