Ankle sprains are common injuries that can result in lifelong problems like joint pain and weakness. This condition provides a painful memory to those who experience it.
However, the common ankle sprain you experienced today may develop into a repeated or severe sprain if not treated completely. Properly stretching your ankle, once the initial pain and swelling have receded, can help in the restoration process of the injured area.
Steps in stretching your ankles
Start each exercise slowly depending on your pain level. Let your pain guide you in doing these exercises. Ease off the exercise if you experience more than mild pain. You must keep in mind that the timing and type of exercises you will do may vary according to your doctor’s or physical therapist’s preferences.
- Range-of-motion exercises
Range-of-motion exercises begin right after your injury and when you can tolerate weight-bearing. Try doing these exercises then put some ice on your ankle, up to 5 times a day.
Try the following simple range-of-motion exercises:
- Trace the alphabet with your toe, which encourages ankle movement in all directions. Trace the alphabet 1 to 3 times.
- Sit in a chair with your foot flat on the floor. Slowly move your knee side to side while keeping your foot pressed flat. Continue for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Stretching exercises
Start stretching your Achilles tendon as soon as you can do so without pain. The Achilles tendon connects the calf muscles on the back of the lower leg to the bone at the base of the heel.
There are two types of stretching exercises you can follow depending on the circumstances you are in. Try the towel stretch if you need to sit down, or try the calf stretch if you can stand.
- Towel stretch. Sit with your leg straight in front of you.
Place a rolled towel under the ball of your foot, holding the towel at both ends.
Gently pull the towel toward you while keeping your knee straight. Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds, and repeat 2 to 4 times.
In moderate to severe ankle sprains, it may be too painful at first to pull your toes far enough to feel a stretch in your calf. Use caution, and let pain be your guide.
- Calf stretch. Stand facing a wall with your hands on the wall at about eye level.
Put the leg you want to stretch about a step behind your other leg.
Keeping your back heel on the floor, bend your front knee until you feel a stretch in the back leg. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat 2 to 4 times.
Repeat the exercise with the back knee bent a little, still keeping your back heel on the floor. This will stretch a different part of the calf muscles.