Ultimate Guide for Ankle Sprain Rehab Exercises

Ultimate Guide for Ankle Sprain Rehab Exercises

One amongst the most common types of injuries is an ankle sprain. It occurs when the foot is twisted or turned beyond its normal motion range. The ligaments that surround the ankle joint stretch or tear, thereby causing the ankle sprain. Applying pain removal sprays or consuming pain killers will not help you heal completely. It is only a temporary solution; in fact, you will feel more severe pain after some hours. For proper treatment, it is important to understand the grade (or degree) of that sprain and accordingly take immediate treatment followed by some effective Ankle Sprain Rehab Exercises. These will be a slow and gradual process but will help in healing you fully. 

Here is the complete guide to healing ankle sprain:

Understand the Causes and Grades:

The most common cause for an ankle sprain is either a missed step, or sometimes there is a missed landing while jumping. Depending upon the the sprain’s severity, the ankle sprains are divided into three grades:

Grade I: A minor tear or a slight stretch of the ligament. The muscle isn’t severely harmed or loosened in this case (no laxity).

Grade II: Some laxity and tearing off of the ligament.

Grade III: High level of laxity and a complete tear-off of the ligament.

Steps for Immediate Treatment:

If ankle sprains are treated immediately, there is a considerable relief from pain and a high probability that the sprain will heal faster. The most widely recommended option for the immediate treatment of ankle sprains is the time-tested R.I.C.E. treatment plan. R.I.C.E. implies Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.

Rest: You need to give your body, especially the affected area, a good rest for at least 24 hours. This means you need to avoid weight bearing on the affected area. Take the help of crutches for walking for at least 1-2 days.

Ice: Apply bagged ice or wrap crushed ice in a thin towel to your ankle joint. For the first 24 hours, apply this for 20 minutes every two hours so that swelling is controlled as well as frostbite is avoided.

Compression: To prevent further swelling, wrap your ankle with an elastic bandage. You should ideally start at the toes and continue to wrap up till the calf.

Elevation: Place yourself in such a position that your ankle is raised above the hip or heart so that the swelling is reduced.

However, even if the swelling does not subside in the next 2-3 days, or if it still hurts badly when you try to bear weight even after two days, then seek medical treatment immediately for a comprehensive assessment and diagnosis of the ankle sprain. There may be a fracture or dislocation in the ankle joint. The MRI or the X-Ray report will confirm the situation, and the doctor will recommend the most appropriate treatment.

Time for Ankle Sprain Rehab:

After resting and icing for 1-2 days, gradually start bearing weight and walking (heel-toe gait) according to your tolerance limit. You may continue using crutches so that full weight bearing can be avoided at this stage of recovery. It is advisable that you also start some rehabilitation exercises as soon as your body is ready to tolerate them without any pain. These are known as Range of Motion (ROM) exercises. The most basic ROM exercise is to try drawing alphabets with your toes in the air. You can also rotate your ankles up-down, in-out, and in circles.

If your pain is gradually becoming tolerable and your swelling is healing, you may proceed with the following Ankle Sprain Rehab Exercises:

(Note that these exercises are for the treatment of Grade I ankle sprain only. For other Grades, the treatment will be according to the doctor’s recommendations.)

Flexibility Exercises

These are basic stretching exercises that help in improving the flexibility of the ankle joint. Some of the standard flexibility exercises are:

  • Towel Stretch
  • Standing Calf Stretch
  • Range of Motion Exercises

Strengthening Exercises

After doing flexibility exercises, if you feel your pain is manageable and swelling is controlled, then you may proceed with the following strengthening exercises.

  • Step-Ups
  • Isometric Exercises
  • Towel Curls
  • Tubing Exercises
  • Heel and Toe Walking 
  • Toe Raises

Proprioception Exercises

If you are able to place weight completely on your injured ankle without feeling any pain, then you may start with the proprioception exercises. These exercises will help you regain the control and balance of your ankle joint. Here’s how you may begin with your proprioceptive training:

  • One-leg balance for 10-30 seconds
  • One-leg squat for 5-10 seconds
  • Balance on board and toss a 4-5 pound medicine ball with a partner
  • The balance on a board and lightly perform ten half squats
  • Place the balance board 6-8 inches higher than your foot and step up onto it for ten times

Agility Exercises

These exercises increase your overall strength and improve your performance. If you are a sports player, then you may also do sport-specific agility exercises. Some of these exercises are:

  • Plyometric Exercises- Squat Jumps and Lunge Jumps
  • Lateral Step Up and Down- This can be done on a bench, stepper or a box
  • Single-Leg Hops and Spot Jumps- They improve the strength and conditioning of the body

Concluding Points:

Rather than overexerting yourself with these exercises, it is advisable to consult your doctor about the exercise chart according to your requirements and schedule. All the above exercises need to be done under the supervision of somebody, for example- a family member, friend, etc. Remember that complete healing and recovery of the ankle joint will be a gradual process, and it may take some time. Even if the pain & swelling are gone after a week or two, it is recommended that you continue with the exercises so that the injury heals completely. Apart from the exercises, regular massage of the affected ankle joint with oil recommended by the doctor will also speed up the recovery process. In the end, all the care and patience will result in your fully healed ankle.


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