With the summer season in full swing, many of us are spending more time outdoors. Whether it’s hiking, running, or playing any variety of sport, one of the most common injuries across the board is the sprained or “rolled” ankle.
An ankle sprain typically happens with a misstep where the ankle rolls inwards causing an overstretching of the ligaments(soft tissues that join bone to bone) on the outside of the ankle. One often experiences immediate pain of varying intensity based on the severity of the ankle sprain. In addition, when compared to the other ankle, the injured ankle will often be weaker and less stable when tested, even after the initial pain and swelling has subsided.
Now, this is where we often experience problems. When the pain is gone, many of us just go back to our previous activities without doing anything to strengthen or, even more crucially, stabilize our ankles. This is a big mistake and can prove costly as people will often re-sprain their ankle with no rehabilitation and a quick return to sport.
In some circumstances, a major contributing factor to this decreased stability is the fact that there may be residual joint restrictions in the ankle. This can include cuboid fixations(a small bone in your mid-foot), and more commonly, a forward shift of the talus(one of your main ankle bones). An forward shifted talus will often feel like a pinch or jam in the front of the ankle when trying the flex the foot upwards and can be quite uncomfortable, especially during sport and returning to running. By correcting these joint restrictions, skilled physiotherapists can help restore normal joint mobility to the ankle, thereby improving its stability.
The three exercises below, among many others, are aimed to help strengthen and improve stability of the ankle once any joint restrictions have been dealt with. Keep in mind that when performing these exercises they should never be painful and should only feel like muscle work.
1. Band resisted eversion
In a seated position, place a resistance band or loop around both of your feet. While keeping the unaffected foot still, move the injured ankle outwards so the sole of the foot points towards the outside. Make sure to only move the ankle and not the whole leg. Pause 2 seconds then return to the starting position. Perform 3 sets of 15 reps.
2. Single leg balance (with progression)
– Yes, it really is as easy as it sounds. Just stand on the affected foot and try to maintain your balance for 15-20 seconds. Perform this exercise multiple times throughout the day. You might be surprised as how different your balance is when comparing side to side. Once you can do this without swaying back and forth, progress the exercise by balancing with your eyes closed, holding for 15-20 seconds.
3. Star lunge
– to perform this exercise stand with your hands on your hips and feet side by side. Step forwards with one foot and drop into a lunge. Return to the starting position. Then lunge at a 45 degree angle forwards, return to start, lunge to the side, return to start, 45 degree lunge backwards, return to start, backwards lunge, return to start and finally crossing behind your other leg dropping into a curtsie squat, then return to start. Perform this 5 x through on both sides. For a demo of this exercise, check out this video.
Although sprained ankles are a common occurrence, skilled physiotherapists can help identify and treat not only the obvious ligamentous injuries but also the more subtle issues that may occur, like the forward shifted talus or other joint restrictions.
So if you’ve been sidelined with an ankle injury that just doesn’t want to get better, come in and get assessed so we can get you back in the game.