Your Guide to Range of Motion After an Ankle Sprain

Ankle sprains create a large amount of pain and discomfort that may be hard for some people to tolerate. Unfortunately, an ankle sprain may decrease your range of motion and trigger other complications that can get worse over time. Therefore, you need to fully understand this problem, including why range of motion matters, what exercises can help, and when to visit a professional.

Why Range of Motion Matters

After an ankle sprain, the torn ligaments may heal improperly and cause a tightness that limits your range of motion. This problem is serious because your range of motion keeps your ankle strong and stable while you walk or exercise. Reduced range of motion will make your ankle less flexible to these demands and may cause persistent and frustrating pain.

Even worse, decreased range of motion may cause an increased risk of ankle sprains. Improperly healed or stiff tendons and muscles will cause your ligaments to react less adequately to stress and strain. As a result, you need to perform various forms of range of motion exercises — once your treatment specialist says you're ready — to keep your ankle stable and safe from recurring sprains.

What Exercises to Consider

If you're concerned about your ankle's range of motion, the routines outlined below will help to preserve your flexibility and even increase it if you perform them consistently enough:

  • Ankle alphabet — Move your ankle and foot in the air to write each letter of the alphabet. Keep your leg straight as you perform this activity and enlarge your letters as your ankle heals.
  • Pumps — Move your injured food up and down like you're driving a car and controlling the speed. Increase your range slowly to expand your range of motion further.
  • Inversion — Slowly swipe your ankle from left to right on the joint to expand your range of motion. Stop if you feel any excessive pain.
  • Toe curls — Hold your foot and ankle still while you flex your toes as far as possible. This activity works muscles in your ankle that are hard to focus on otherwise.

These exercises are just an example of the routines you can utilize to strengthen your ankle after a sprain. For example, you can expand to towel curls, slides, ankle dorsiflexion, and much more as your sprain heals. Only expand to more challenging routines if and when your doctor says you are ready.

When to Visit a Professional

Most of the time, these recovery activities will help to maintain or even increase your range of motion after a sprain. However, you may also need to see a professional if your case worsens. For example, you may experience prolonged pain in your sprain which makes normal activities more challenging to handle. Extra tears near your injury may cause prolonged discomfort.

You may also suffer from bruises near the injury site or weakness that won't go away. These symptoms commonly occur for a week or two after a sprain but should improve with attention and exercise. However, if your ankle remains weak or your range of motion seems to worsen or fails to improve, you should contact an ankle care professional right away.

Who Can Help With This Problem

While you can usually implement these ankle exercises on your own, you may need professional help if you make a mistake or otherwise worsen your sprain. In some instances, you may need to get surgery to repair torn tissues and to keep your ankle strong and stable whenever you walk.

So if you're worried about your range of motion after an ankle sprain and think you may need specialized care, please don't hesitate to contact our foot and ankle clinic to learn more. Our experts will assess the extent of your ankle injury and will work hard to ensure you get the care you need.