4 Best Exercises for Ankle Sprain

Exercises for ankle sprain

Topic Highlights: 4 Best Exercises for Ankle Sprain

“Ankle Sprain is very common. Most people who have severe pain avoid walking because of pain.

After the initial pain management, gentle exercises are recommended to quickly get back to work.

Four of the best exercises recommended by our physiotherapists are explained here.”

Grades of Ankle Sprain:

An ankle sprain is an injury that occurs when the ankle twists, rolls, or turns in an abnormal way.

This abnormal movement can cause injury and functionally limit the normal working of the ankle joint.

This sudden force can stretch or even in some cases tear the ligaments of the ankle which hold the ankle bones together.

This excessive stretching or tearing can cause a deviation from the normal alignment of the ankle joint.

The severity and extent of injury depend on the grade of the injury. Which is determined by the level of damage to the ligament.

There are 3 grades of ankle sprain:

  • Grade 1 ankle sprain:

In grade 1 there is no tearing of the ligament but minimal stretching of it, hence the recovery time is the shortest, lasting for about 1-3 weeks.

The symptoms include minimal tenderness and swelling of the joint. 

  • Grade 2 ankle sprain:

In grade 2 there is partial tearing of the ligament and the recovery time for it lasts between 3-6 weeks.

The symptoms of a grade 2 ankle sprain include moderate swelling requiring the R.I.C.E technique, tenderness, and a decrease in the range of motion of the joint.

  • Grade 3 ankle sprain:

In grade 3 there is a complete tear or rupture of the ligament, this is the most extreme level of injury requiring several months to recover, and may also need surgery.

grades, treatment, and exercises for ankle sprain
Severe ankle sprain: POP cast applied to immobilize the joint



Initial Treatment of ankle sprain:

The initial treatment during an ankle sprain is the R.I.C.E technique, which is rest, icing, compression, and elevation.

The combined effect of these helps speed up healing, decrease inflammation, and reduce pain and further trauma to the site of injury.

After the initial management is done the individual can move on to exercises that are safe to perform during an ankle sprain which do not further increase their pain and cause adverse effects in their healing.

Exercises would include a basic range of motion exercises to help prevent contractures, muscle spasms, and tightness and also help maintain the muscle length and bulk during the recovery period.

Once the inflammation has significantly reduced, the individual can easily start incorporating exercises into their recovery and rehabilitation period.

best exercises for ankle sprain

4 Best Exercises for Ankle Sprain:

1. Towel Curls

To perform towel curls. the individual needs to be in a sitting position with their feet firmly placed over a towel on the floor.

Then scrunch the towel with your toes and spread them out again. This helps in flexing and extending the muscles of the feet such as the flexor halluces longus and the flexor digitorum longus.

Towel curls stretch and flex the foot helping improve balance, increasing foot strength, and also supporting the arches of the feet during the recovery.   

2. Ankle Pumps

Ankle pumps help in stretching the muscles of the lower leg, mainly the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles but also the Achilles tendon.

They are especially useful in helping with the circulation of blood in the lower extremity. Ankle pumps cause the gastrocnemius and soleus to contract which in turn squeeze the veins allowing for blood flow upwards towards the heart.

To perform ankle pumps you can either start by laying down on your back or in a long sitting position with your legs supported either by a couch, bed, or even a mat on the floor.

Next, you need to point your toes away from your body causing plantar flexion, hold this position for a few seconds till you feel a stretch then point your toes in the opposite direction towards your knees, causing dorsal flexion.

Alternate between these two movements making sure to hold the stretch for a few seconds before alternating to the other position.

3. Knee swings

Another exercise that helps in the healing of ligaments after an ankle sprain is knee swings. To perform knee swings you need to sit with your legs hanging and your feet flat on the floor.

Then move your knee from side to side while keeping your foot flat on the ground. Slowly move your knee from side to side being cautious to not excessively stretch the ligaments of the ankle joint.

Do this for about 2-3 minutes at a time to not cause fatigue and prevent overstretching of the ligaments. Knee swings help target and relax the ligaments of the ankle.

4. Ankle Alphabet

A great way to maintain the range of motion of the ankle while also stretching and strengthening the muscles is by performing the exercise ankle alphabet.

This exercise helps perform all range of motion activities possible at the ankle joint. To perform the ankle alphabet you can lay with your affected leg propped on pillows or cushions for support, with your foot in the air start to draw out the letters of the alphabet initiating with your big toe.

If the movement at any time during the exercise becomes painful you should stop immediately.

Another way of performing this exercise is by sitting on a chair with your feet on the ground, slowly lifting the affected foot, and drawing out the letters with your foot.


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Written by Dr. Ahmed

I am Dr. Ahmed (MBBS; FCPS Medicine), an Internist and a practicing physician. I am in the medical field for over fifteen years working in one of the busiest hospitals and writing medical posts for over 5 years.

I love my family, my profession, my blog, nature, hiking, and simple life. Read more about me, my family, and my qualifications

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