Spraining an ankle is definitely one of the more dull injuries you can sustain, since the joints tend to become quite stiff and limited with its range of motion after everything cools down. However, there are ways to hasten the process of recovery. After a couple of days rest, rehabilitation can actually start very early, as long as the sprain isn’t too serious, of course. Remember that any lateral movement or rapid change of direction should be avoided at the beginning. With that in mind, here are some exercises which can effectively bring the strength back to you ankles.
The wobble board
You’ll find this piece of equipment really rather beneficial, because during the early stages of rehabilitation it is used to increase the range of motion of your ankle. Just sit on a comfortable chair with your feet resting on a wobble board and move them forwards and backwards to mobilize your joints. Remember the previously mentioned advice, though, avoid any sideways movements, since the injured lateral ligaments can be exposed to quite a lot of pain. Only in the later stages should you slowly commence with the circular motion.
Plantar – and dorsi-flexion
This is an exercise which prevents the ankles from seizing up. You have two moves – one is pulling the foot as far as it will go and hold it for a couple of seconds in that position (dorsi-) and the other is pointing it away from you and holding that position all the same (plantar-).
At the beginning do about 2 sets of 20 reps. You’ll keep your calf and shin muscles active, the pumping motion will additionally decrease the swelling and the damaged ligaments won’t be stressed. In time you will be able to do the same exercise, but with a resistance band which is excellent for gaining back your ankle strength (10-20 reps in 3 sets).
Inversion and eversion
Once healing has been established and pain is no longer an issue, the sideways mobilization of ankles should gradually ensue. All you have to do is turn the feet so the soles point outwards and then later inwards. Do it slowly, so that you can limit your pain threshold, feel how your body reacts and in time you will be able to do full circle exercises.
As the pain subsides some more, focus on doing the same thing but in an isometric manner (no movement of the joints). Find a partner or better yet visit a professional therapist who will reccomend best physio supplies for you and provide resistance with hands, or use a wall or chair leg. The reason why gradual resistance is needed in this exercise is because it strengthens the muscles and prevents the injury from recurring, if done properly.
Prior to doing this exercise, work your ankles with a gastrocnemius and soleus stretch up against a wall. If you feel there is not much soreness and pain, being able to strengthen your calf muscles if proof that the rehabilitation is going fine. Just rise up and down on your toes in a smooth, steady movement and feel the slight burn spreading through your lower legs.
Start with 3 sets of 10 reps, but bear in mind that you can progress quickly each day. Before you know it, you can perform the exercise on one leg only. It may be a lot harder, but that’s the road to rehabilitation. Also, if you can allow your heel to drop past the level of a step, or stair, that should be proof enough that you’re on your way to full recovery.