Sprain ankle or twisted ankle is one of the common causes of ankle pain. A sprained ankle is a condition where there is stretching and/or tearing of ligaments or muscles of the ankle. It is one of the frequently occurring sports injuries.
The most common ankle sprain is an inversion sprain of ankle (lateral ligament sprain). In this, the ankle is twisted over and the sole of the foot turns internally resulting in damage to the ligaments present externally on the ankle. An eversion ankle sprain occurs rarely. It usually occurs with a fracture. The anterior talofibular ligament is commonly injured during an ankle sprain. This ligament joins the talus (ankle bone) to the fibula. In case of severe sprain, the calcaneofibular ligament is also injured. This ligament joins the heel bone to the fibula. In extremely severe cases of sprained ankle, other than the ligament damage, the tendons, bone and joint tissues may also be damaged.
Physical Therapy for Sprained Ankle
Physical therapist performs a full evaluation of the ankle to give the proper and effective treatment and exercises for early recovery from sprained ankle. Manual test are performed to find out how unstable your ankle is following a sprain and in some cases, x-rays might be required to determine whether there is a broken bone.
First 24 to 72 hours after injury, immediate treatment for sprained ankle involves RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation). Sprained ankle or twisted ankle is treated by resting the ankle with supports on a pillow or stool and then 10-minute ice treatments.
The physical therapist can create a specific treatment plan for you to follow at home to help speed your recovery process following ankle sprain. Physical Therapists can use modalities such as ice/heat application, electrical stimulation and taping/wrapping techniques to reduce the swelling associated with sprained ankle. The physical therapy treatment plan for sprained ankle also includes manual therapy and special exercises. Special brace is required for more severe ankle sprains to provide extra support to your ankle.
Physical Therapy for Sprained Ankle: 12 Exercises for Ankle Sprain
Exercise #1. Toe Draw Exercise for Ankle Sprain:
After a week of ankle sprain, range of motion (ROM) exercises is started. In seated position, the patient is asked to draw a circle and entire alphabet one letter at a time by moving the sprained ankle and using the great toe as “Pen”. Repeat this exercise for 3-5 times a day.
Exercise #2. Windshield Wiper Exercise for Improving the Range of Motion of the Sprained Ankle:
Patient with sprained ankle is asked to sit on a stool with the foot flat on the floor and facing straight ahead. Then the patient is instructed to rotate the affected foot to mimic a windshield wiper blade. To do this exercise, rotate the foot outward as much as possible without moving or lifting your heel and then rotate the foot inward as far as possible. Repeat this movement for 15-20 times and 3-5 times a day.
Exercise #3. Seated Heel Raise Exercise for Ankle Sprain
To do this exercise for sprained ankle, patient is asked to sit on a stool with the foot flat on the floor and facing straight ahead. The patient is asked to keep the toes of the sprained ankle on the ground and lift the heel as high as possible and hold the position for as long as you can and then return to the original position. Repeat this movement for 15-20 times and 3-5 times a day.
Exercise #4. Single Leg Stand Exercise for Strengthening the Sprained Ankle
To do this exercise for sprained ankle, stand with a support of your hand on the table and shift some of your weight to the sprained ankle foot for 15-20 seconds or as long as you can. Repeat this exercise for 15-20 times and 3-5 times a day. Gradually increase the amount of weight shifted to your sprained ankle foot until your full body weight is used.
Exercise #5. Eversion and Inversion Isometric Exercise for Ankle Sprain
To do this ankle sprain exercise, in standing position, keep the outside of your sprained ankle foot against a table leg and push outward for 3-5 seconds. Now, keep the inside of your injured foot against a table leg and push inward for the same time. Do this exercise 3-5 times a day and for as long as you are comfortable.
Exercise #6. Elastic Band Eversion and Inversion Exercise For Improving Range of Motion of Sprained Ankle:
Sit on the floor with your injured leg extended straight. Tie a loop in an elastic exercise band and attached the other end to a heavy object like chair or table leg. Place the loop around the ball of the sprained ankle foot as shown in the image and perform inversion of the injured foot i.e., rotate your foot away from the chair or table leg without moving your heel from its place. Then, return to the original position.
Now, reverse the position of the elastic exercise band and performed inversion of the foot i.e., rotates your foot inward (away from the chair or table leg). Do this exercise for sprained ankle for as long as you can and try doing them 3-5 times a day for early recovery from ankle sprain or twisted ankle.
Exercise #7. Gastrocnemius or Soleus Stretch Exercise for Ankle Sprain
Stand with one leg in front of the other (injured foot behind the uninjured foot), with both feet pointed forward and keep the sprained ankle feet straight without bending your knee and making sure that the heel is pressed to the floor. Place your hands on a wall for support. Push your hips forward, while pressing your back heel to ground so that you feel a stretch in the calf. Hold the stretch position for 20-30 seconds or as much you feel comfortable. Repeat this exercise for sprained ankle for 3-5 times a day.
Exercise #8: Weight Bearing Exercise for Ankle Sprain
Stand with one leg in front of the other (sprained ankle foot in front) close to a wall and place your hands on a wall for support. Bend the knee of your back leg (uninjured leg), trying to touch the front knee on the wall and lower your body toward the floor. Make sure to keep the heel of the back foot on the ground while doing this exercise. You should feel a stretch in the lower calf of the back leg and hold the position for 20-30 seconds or as much you feel comfortable. Repeat this exercise for ankle for 3-5 times a day.
Exercise #9. Full Weight Bearing Exercise for Sprained Ankle
To do this exercise for ankle sprain, stand with both feet together and then lift your uninjured leg bending at the knee (as shown in the image). Maintain full weight on the sprained ankle foot for 20-30 minutes or as long as you can. While maintaining the position of standing on injured leg, slowly try raising the heel with the weight falling on the ball of the injured foot from the ground and then return the heel to the ground. Repeat this exercise for 15-20 repetition. Do this exercise for 3-5 times a day. While performing this exercise avoid any sideways swaying or tilting in your upper body.
Ankle Sprain Exercise #10.: Full Weight Bearing Balance Exercise on a Folded Towel
Fold a towel into a small rectangular shape and keep on the ground. Stand with the injured ankle on the folded towel. Do the same exercises, just like the above one leg standing exercise. This exercise improves your balance and also increases the stance time on injured leg.
Exercise #11. Lateral Step Exercise for Ankle Sprain or Twisted Ankle
Stand with both feet to one side of a folded towel. Then step over the towel with the injured foot and remain on that foot. Now, reverse the process and step over the towel in the opposite direction. Increase speed of the exercise as pain will allow. Do this exercise for 3-5 times a day.
Exercise #12. Lateral Bound Exercise for Ankle Sprain
This exercise should be performed only in the advanced stages of recovery from ankle sprain or twisted ankle. Stand with both feet to one side of a folded towel. Hop over the towel and land on the left foot and then hop back over the towel and land on the right foot. Increase the speed of this exercise as much you feel comfortable.
Repeat this exercise for 15-20 repetition. Do this exercise for 3-5 times a day.
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