4 Exercises to Regain Your Ankle Range of Motion After a Sprain

Ankle sprains create a lot of pain and discomfort that can be hard to tolerate, and many people try to handle the sprain on their own. However, if left untreated, a sprained ankle can lead to decreased range of motion and other complications that worsen over time. This is why our foot and ankle specialists at EVFAS believe you need to fully understand this problem along with why range of motion matters, what exercises can help, and when to visit a professional.

Why Ankle Range of Motion Matters

Whether you’re certain you’ve experienced an ankle sprain or unsure, it is important to get medical attention. The sooner the better! An untreated sprain can lead to even worse conditions down the road, and you don’t know the severity without an evaluation. A foot and ankle specialist will help you start rehabilitation exercises as early as you’re able to ensure your sprain heals properly.

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 podiatrist or physician says you're ready — to keep your ankle stable and safe from recurring sprains.

How to Strengthen Your Ankles: Ankle Range of Motion Exercises to Consider

Performing ankle exercises after a sprain will help you regain strength and range of motion. If you're concerned about your ankle's range of motion, find out how to strengthen your ankles with the exercises below 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 ankle range of motion exercises are just a few examples of the routines you can utilize to ensure a full and healthy recovery. 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.

    Do Sprained Ankles Ever Fully Heal?

    Recovery time for a sprained ankle depends on the severity and grade. There are three ankle sprain classifications based on the amount of force and severity of the injury. They range from a slight stretching or tearing of the ligament that causes mild tenderness to a complete tear with severe inflammation and pain. After diagnosing the grade of your sprain, our doctors will determine the best treatment option and recovery exercises for your condition.

    Typically, an ankle sprain will take between a couple of days to six weeks to fully heal through icing and elevation. For more severe cases, recovery may require crutches and can take up to a couple of months. As for dealing with the pain of an ankle sprain, mild conditions will take a couple of weeks before the patient is able to feel completely comfortable again. If the ligaments are torn, it can take months.

    When to See a Doctor for Your Sprained Ankle

    If you’ve experienced an ankle sprain or think you may have injured your ankle, and conservative treatment options aren’t working, contact our foot and ankle specialists at EVFAS. It is crucial to treat the sprain as early as possible for a full range of motion and strength recovery. If untreated, more serious conditions such as chronic ankle instability and loss of strength in the leg can occur.

    How to Prevent Ankle Sprains & Strengthen Your Ankles

    Ankle sprains can happen to anyone, athletes and less active people alike. To prevent an ankle sprain, maintaining strength and flexibility in the ankle is key. This can be done through improving balance, core strengthening exercises, and being sure to acknowledge any ankle pain you may have. In some instances, you may need to get surgery to repair torn tissues and to keep your ankle strong and stable whenever you walk.

    Contact the Foot & Ankle Experts at EVFAS to Avoid Future Ankle Damage

    If you are experiencing chronic ankle pain after a sprain or you're worried about your range of motion after an ankle sprain, contact our foot and ankle clinic to learn more. Our foot and ankle specialists will assess the extent of your ankle injury and guide you through the recovery process to get you back on your feet!