Ankle Sprain Rehab: Getting Back on Your Feet

Ankle sprains are a common injury, often caused by twisting or rolling the ankle. While they can be painful and inconvenient, the good news is that with the right approach to rehabilitation, you can make a full recovery and regain your mobility. They are one of the most common injuries in recreational sports in Vancouver during the summer time for basketball and volleyball.

1. Rest and Protect
Immediately after sustaining an ankle sprain, it is crucial to rest and protect the injured ankle. Avoid putting weight on it and use crutches or a supportive brace to stabilize the joint. This initial period allows the damaged ligaments to heal and prevents further injury. Though you are resting, try to promote pain free mobility to help increase proper scar tissue setting. 

2. Ice and Compression
Applying ice packs to the injured ankle for 15-20 minutes several times a day can help reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation. Compressing the ankle with an elastic bandage can also aid in minimizing swelling and providing support to the injured area.

3. Elevation
Elevating the injured ankle above the level of your heart whenever possible can help reduce swelling. Prop your ankle on a pillow or cushion while resting or sleeping to promote proper circulation and facilitate the healing process.

4. Gentle Range of Motion Exercises
Once the acute phase has passed and the swelling has subsided, you can start gentle range of motion exercises to improve joint mobility. Perform simple movements like ankle circles, flexing and pointing the toes, and writing the alphabet with your toes. These exercises promote blood flow and prevent stiffness.

5. Strengthening Exercises
As your ankle starts to regain mobility, it's time to focus on strengthening the surrounding muscles. Perform exercises such as calf raises, toe raises, ankle dorsiflexion and plantarflexion, and resistance band exercises. These exercises improve stability and prevent future ankle sprains.

6. Balance and Proprioception Training
Balance and proprioception exercises are essential for retraining the ankle to respond appropriately to changes in terrain and prevent recurrent sprains. Practice balancing on one leg, using a wobble board or balance disc, and performing single-leg squats. These exercises enhance proprioception and stability.

7. Gradual Return to Activity
As your ankle gains strength and stability, gradually reintroduce activities that involve more impact and movement. Start with low-impact exercises such as swimming or stationary cycling before progressing to walking, jogging, and eventually sports-specific activities. Listen to your body and pace yourself to avoid re-injury.

8. Seek Professional Guidance
If you're unsure about the appropriate exercises or the progress of your ankle sprain rehab, consult a qualified healthcare professional such as a physical therapist. They can provide a personalized treatment plan, monitor your progress, and make necessary adjustments to ensure a safe and effective recovery.

Ankle sprains may initially feel like a setback, but with the right approach to rehabilitation, you can bounce back stronger and more resilient. Remember to give yourself enough time to heal, follow the steps outlined in this blog, and consult a healthcare professional when needed. By diligently following your ankle sprain rehab program, you'll be back on your feet and ready to embrace your active lifestyle once again.

Following you return to movement and exercise, these are 5 exercises you can try at home for your ankle sprain when it is ready and you are able to put weight onto your ankles. 

1. Range of Motion Exercises
- Sit on a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
- Slowly move your injured ankle up and down, aiming for a full range of motion.
- Repeat this motion 10-15 times.
- Next, move your ankle side to side, again aiming for a full range of motion.
- Repeat this motion 10-15 times.
- Perform these exercises 2-3 times a day to improve joint mobility.

2. Calf Raises
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold onto a sturdy support for balance.
- Slowly rise up onto your toes, lifting your heels off the ground.
- Hold the position for a few seconds and then slowly lower your heels back down.
- Repeat this exercise 10-15 times for 2-3 sets.
- As your strength improves, try doing the exercise on the injured leg alone.
*When you are ready, you can try doing single leg supported calf raise (your arm is grabbing something for balance) 

3. Ankle Alphabet
- Sit on a chair or lie down on your back.
- Extend your injured leg in front of you.
- Imagine tracing the letters of the alphabet with your toes.
- Move your ankle and foot to create the shapes of each letter.
- Complete the entire alphabet once or twice, or until you feel fatigue.
- This exercise promotes flexibility and range of motion in the ankle joint.

4. Balance Exercises
- Stand on one leg while holding onto a stable surface for support.
- Gradually try to reduce your reliance on support, aiming to balance on one leg without assistance.
- Hold the position for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Repeat on the other leg.
- As your balance improves, try closing your eyes or performing the exercise on an uneven surface like a foam pad.

5. Resistance Band Exercises
- Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you.
- Loop a resistance band around the ball of your foot.
- Hold the ends of the band with your hands.
- Point your toes away from your body, stretching the band.
- Then, flex your foot back toward your body against the resistance of the band.
- Repeat this exercise 10-15 times for 2-3 sets.
- This exercise helps strengthen the muscles that support the ankle.

Remember to start these exercises gradually and listen to your body. If you experience pain or discomfort, reduce the intensity or consult a healthcare professional for guidance. Consistency and proper form are key to a successful ankle sprain rehabilitation.