Home > Health Library > Sprained Ankle: Rehabilitation Exercises
are common injuries that can result in lifelong problems. Some people with
repeated or severe sprains can develop long-term joint pain and weakness.
Treating a sprained ankle can help prevent ongoing ankle problems.
Rehabilitation (rehab) exercises are critical
to ensure that the ankle heals completely and reinjury does not occur.
An ankle sprain occurs when
ligaments that connect the bones in the foot, ankle,
and lower leg are stretched or torn.
An ankle sprain often
happens when you make a rapid shifting movement with your foot planted, for
example, when playing soccer or getting tackled in football. Most commonly, the
ankle rolls outward and the foot turns inward in what is called an
inversion injury. It results in stretching and tearing of the ligaments on the
outside of the ankle.
Less commonly, the ankle rolls inward and
the foot turns outward in an
eversion injury, damaging the ligaments at the inside of the ankle.
See your doctor immediately if you notice any of
You should see your doctor after an
ankle sprain if you notice any of the
Also be sure to contact your doctor if you have a cast or
splint around your ankle that feels too tight.
Inversion injuries result in stretching or tearing of
the ligaments on the outside of the ankle.
Inversion injuries result in stretching or
tearing of the ligaments on the outside of the ankle. Inversion injuries are
the most common cause of ankle sprains.
Continue to Why?
If ligaments do not heal properly after an ankle sprain, the ankle can
become weak and unstable and give out with only minor trauma, such as stepping
off a curb. Rehabilitation exercises help repair and strengthen injured
Rehabilitation exercises are not important for ankle
Rehabilitation exercises are critical to ensure
that the ankle heals completely and reinjury does not occur.
Continue to How?
Start each exercise slowly and use your pain level to guide you in
doing these exercises. Ease off the exercise if you have more than mild
pain. Following are some examples of typical rehabilitation (rehab) exercises.
Keep in mind that the timing and type of rehab exercises
recommended for you may vary according to your doctor's or physical therapist's
exercises begin right after your injury. Try doing these exercises then putting ice on your ankle, up to 5 times a day. These are easy to do while you are at a desk or watching TV.
Try the following simple
Towel curls. While sitting, place a hand towel on a
smooth floor, such as wood or tile. Keeping your heel on the ground, curl
your toes and grab the towel with your toes to scrunch the towel. Let go, and
continue scrunching up the entire length of the towel. When you reach the end
of the towel, reverse the action by grabbing the towel with your toes,
scrunching it, and pushing it away from you. Repeat, until you have pushed the
entire length of the towel away from you.
Start exercises to stretch
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. Try the towel stretch if you need to sit down, or try the calf stretch if you can stand.
Talk to your doctor
or physical therapist about the timing of
strengthening exercises for the ankle. Typically you
can start them when you are able to stand without increased pain or swelling.
Do 8 to 12 repetitions of these exercises once or twice daily for 2 to 4 weeks, depending on the severity of
You can usually
start balance and control exercises when you are able to
stand without pain. But talk to your doctor or physical therapist about the
exact timing. Also, don't try these exercises if you could not have done them
easily before your injury. If you think you would have felt unsteady doing
these exercises when your ankle was healthy, you are at risk of falling when
you try them with an injured ankle.
Practice your balance exercise at least once a day, repeating it about 6 times in each session.
Stretching exercises should be continued on a daily basis
and especially before and after physical activities to prevent reinjury. Even
after your ankle feels better, continue with strengthening exercises and
balance and control exercises several times a week to keep your ankles
Begin muscle-strengthening exercises after you can
stand without increased pain or swelling.
Muscle-strengthening exercises usually are
started after you can stand without increased pain or swelling.
Continue to Where?
For more information about rehabilitation
exercises, talk to:
If you would like more information on rehabilitation
exercises for an ankle sprain, the following resources are available:
Return to topic:
November 15, 2011
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
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