5 Physical Therapy Exercises for Sprained Ankle Relief
A sprained ankle can be painful and cause tremendous discomfort, especially if it is accompanied by swelling and bruising. It requires immediate treatment, as the injury can lead to a complete loss of function and even permanent damage to your foot if not treated properly.
Exercises for sprained ankles are designed to help reduce swelling, increase flexibility in the ankle joint and restore movement of the affected joint. In this article, you will learn which physical therapy exercises help you overcome your ankle sprain pain.
What is a Sprained Ankle?
Did you know 40% of all ankle injuries are sprains, and 45% of basketball players experience them? Soccer and football players are just a little behind with similar rates. A sprained ankle is one of the most common reasons people visit the doctor. When you roll, twist, or awkwardly turn your ankle, the tough bands of tissue (ligaments) that help hold your ankle bones together stretch or tear. Sprains most commonly occur when ligaments are pinched or stretched, causing them to snap back into place. Sprained ankles usually involve injuries of the outer ligaments on the ankle joint. Pro Staff Physical Therapy offers competitive rates and personalized care that will allow you to focus on getting back to normal quickly.
What are the Symptoms of a Sprained Ankle?
A sprained ankle is an ankle injury that occurs when the joint’s ligaments are stretched or torn.
Common symptoms of a sprained ankle include:
- A mild to moderate amount of pain around the ankle
- Pain when lifting the foot or moving it in an awkward way
- Swelling or redness over the ankle joint
- Tenderness in the area where your ankle bends (the middle of your foot)
- Popping or cracking sensation
See an expert or physical therapist immediately if you have any of these symptoms.
What are the Causes of a Sprained Ankle?
A sprain is a mild injury to one of the ankle’s ligaments. It results when stretching or tearing one or more of these connective tissues, which hold your joint together.
Several causes of a sprained ankle include:
- Falling on an outstretched foot
- Twisting your ankle while running
- Stepping awkwardly off a step or curb
How is a Sprained Ankle Diagnosed?
Firstly your therapist will examine the ankle, foot, and lower leg for tenderness. They may touch the skin around where you hurt to see if that area is painful; then, move your foot in different positions to understand what movements cause pain.
If you suffer a severe injury, an expert physical therapist may recommend that you undergo one or more of the following scans to determine whether there is a broken bone and assess the severity of damage to the ligaments:
- X-ray: This test can help rule out the possibility of a bone fracture.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): MRIs use radio waves and a strong magnetic field to produce detailed cross-sectional images of ankle ligaments.
- CT scan: CT scans use many X-rays taken from different angles to make a joint cross-section.
- Ultrasound: An ultrasound uses sound waves to produce real-time images that a doctor can use to diagnose injuries or infections.
5 Physical Therapy Exercises for Sprained Ankle Relief
Sprained ankles can be painful, and you might feel like you need to give up if you’re struggling with a sprain. You should know that with physical therapy, you can return to your routine and walk without pain.
Here are five exercises for sprained ankles that will help ease your pain and get you back on the road to recovery as soon as possible:
- Isometric ankle exercises: begin to strengthen the ankle muscles (tibialis posterior, peroneal) that help stabilize your heel when it’s on the ground.
- Leg swings, with a lightweight: Attach a small weight to your ankle to perform this exercise. Then swing your leg from side to side in a controlled way. This will mobilize the joint and strengthen the muscles surrounding it.
- Leg balance exercises: Keep your knee straight while standing on the limb where your injured ankle is located. Up to 30 seconds, try to maintain your balance on that leg, then take up to 10 seconds to relax.
- Heel-to-toe walking with a medium weight: To start slowly, gradually reintroduce weight-bearing activities on your foot. Kinesiology tape and braces will keep your ankle from rolling as your ligaments heal—and a physical therapist is a perfect resource to help with this process.
- Resisted ankle eversion: Tie the ends of an exercise band together to form a loop. Suspend this from something like a door handle, or hold it in place with your foot and ankle elevated off the ground for best results.
For expert help, you can contact Pro Staff Physical Therapy because we prioritize helping our patients return to full function, whether after injury, surgery, or simply due to a chronic condition.
When Should you See a Physical Therapist for a Sprained Ankle?
A sprained ankle is one of the most common reasons people visit the doctor. A sprain occurs when some part of your ankle or foot is twisted or overextended. This can happen when you twist your ankle, fall, or put too much weight on it.
Most sprains occur on the outside (lateral side) of the ankle. If you sprain this area, you’ll likely need to see a physical therapist for treatment.
Here are some signs that warrants an expert opinion:
- You feel pain in your ankle
- Your ankle looks swollen or has a red or purple tinge to it
- You have difficulty moving your foot in any direction
What to Expect in Physical Therapy for a Sprained Ankle?
A sprained ankle can be a painful and frustrating experience. Knowing what to expect in physical therapy for a sprained ankle is important.
- When you go to your physical therapist, they’ll first do an assessment of your ankle. They’ll ask you questions about how it feels and how long it’s been hurting, as well as whether or not you’ve had any problems with it in the past.
- The physical therapist may refer you to a physician to take x-rays of your ankle (if necessary) to see if any other injuries need treatment alongside your sprained ankle. They may also use your medical records from previous visits with them to help them better understand how you’re feeling now.
- Finally, the physical therapist will advise you on what exercises you can do at home or in their office to help reduce swelling and speed up recovery time for your sprained ankle as much as possible.
Why Choose Pro Staff for Physical Therapy for Sprained Ankle Relief?
Pro Staff Physical Therapy is a leading physical therapy provider for ankle sprains. We know how important it is to get the right treatment at the right time, and we want to help you find it.
We aim to provide you with the best ankle sprain recovery possible so you can get back on your feet as quickly as possible and start enjoying life again. Our experienced staff will work with you to determine the best course of action for treating your ankle sprain and ensuring it heals properly. If you are looking for an excellent option for physical therapy after having an ankle sprain, then Pro Staff Physical Therapy is where you should be going. Contact us today!
Pro Staff Institute, LLC, has a network of outpatient physical rehabilitation centers in New Jersey. Pro Staff was founded in 2010 by Frank Pavlisko and Michael Maffucci. Through Frank’s 25 plus years experience in Physical Therapy and Michael’s experience in Management Services, our goal is to exceed customer expectations by providing the highest quality of service in a fun, family, friendly, and encouraging environment.
This post was authored byDr. Thomas A. Koc, Jr., PT, DPT, PhD, CIMT– Director of Clinical Education at Pro Staff Physical Therapy. He is an accomplished physical therapist with a keen interest in treating patients experiencing orthopedic, cardiovascular, and pulmonary conditions. When not with patients, he is mentoring the next generation of physical therapists as a professor at both Seton Hall University and Kean University. He holds a Doctorate of Physical Therapy and PhD with a specialization in movement science, both from Seton Hall.
What is the best therapy for a sprained ankle? ›
- Rest. Avoid activities that cause pain, swelling or discomfort.
- Ice. Use an ice pack or ice slush bath immediately for 15 to 20 minutes and repeat every two to three hours while you're awake. ...
- Compression. To help stop swelling, compress the ankle with an elastic bandage until the swelling stops. ...
Flex and stretch
You can exercise your ankles and the rest of your legs by alternately flexing and stretching. Once a day, lie on your back, reaching your legs upwards, and then flex your muscles and stretch repeatedly. Complete 10 sets of stretches, holding each time for at least three seconds.
- Warm up prior to any sports activity. ...
- Condition your muscles for the sport. ...
- Choose athletic shoes specifically for your foot type. ...
- Replace athletic shoes when the tread wears out or the heels wear down. ...
- Avoid running or stepping on uneven surfaces.
Generally, you can begin range-of-motion and stretching exercises within the first 48 hours and should continue until you're as free of pain as you were before your sprain. Start to exercise seated on a chair or on the floor. As your sprained ankle improves, you can progress to standing exercises.When should I start physical therapy after a sprained ankle? ›
You may begin physical therapy after swelling has subsided and you can walk without significant pain, typically two to three weeks after the injury. Therapy may include mobilizing the ankle joint and stretching the foot to improve range of motion.Should I go to physical therapy for a sprained ankle? ›
It is important to rest and ice the ankle to help with the initial symptoms that will present following an ankle sprain, and physical therapy can play a critical role in getting you back to action.Should you massage a sprained ankle? ›
Some research points to the answer being a resounding yes — you should massage a sprained ankle. This includes a 2017 study , which found that massaging the calf muscle can help improve the ankle's flexibility, as well as your ability to balance on the ankle joint.What will an orthopedic do for a sprained ankle? ›
Rest and restricted movement or non-weight-bearing activities. Protecting the ankle with a cast or boot. Physical therapy to gradually restore function, range of motion, strength, and flexibility.How can I stimulate my ligaments to heal? ›
- Rest. The generally accepted wisdom on how to initially treat a ligament injury can be summed up in one acronym: RICE, which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. ...
- Reduce Swelling. ...
- Ligament Injections. ...
- PRP Therapy. ...
- Balance Training.
Nearly all isolated low ankle sprains can be treated without surgery. Even a complete ligament tear (Grade 3) will heal without surgical repair if it is immobilized and rehabilitated appropriately.
What are the 5 steps to treatments of sprains and strains? ›
- Follow the DRSABCD action plan.
- Follow the RICE management plan: Rest the patient and the injury. Apply an icepack (cold compress) wrapped in a wet cloth to the injury for 15 minutes every 2 hours for 24 hours and then for 15 minutes every 4 hours for 24 hours. ...
- Seek medical aid.
How long does a sprained ankle take to heal? The recovery time for a sprained ankle varies depending on the severity of your injury. It may take anywhere from two weeks to heal a minor sprain and anywhere from six to 12 weeks to heal a severe sprain.Why does my sprained ankle still hurt after 3 months? ›
If you sprained or broke your ankle and it has not gotten back to anormal after 3 months, you need an MRI to assess the ligaments and the cartilage. Even without a ligament tear or cartilage injury, many people need extensive physical therapy including strengthening and balance training to get to 100% better.Does walking on a sprained ankle strengthen it? ›
Walking: Did you know that walking can promote healing for a sprained ankle? In the first few days, you should stay off the foot. As the swelling decreases and the ankle starts to heal, short distance walking can be good for your recovery. Start slowly and gradually build up your distance and endurance.How many weeks should you rest a sprained ankle? ›
Mild, low-grade ankle sprains will usually heal in one to three weeks with proper rest and non-surgical care (such as applying ice). Moderate injuries may take between three and four weeks. Because of limited blood flow to the ligaments of the ankle, more severe injuries may take between three and six months to heal.How long should a sprained ankle hurt to walk on? ›
Recovering from a sprained ankle
Mild-to-moderate sprains should heal enough to walk on within a few weeks. But it may take up to two or three months to get back to normal, including playing sports. If you have a very bad ankle sprain, it may take several months to recover, especially if you need surgery.
A typical physical therapy session lasts 30 to 90 minutes and is scheduled 2-3 times per week. In most cases, treatment may begin immediately following your physical therapist's initial evaluation. Additionally, most patients will attend an evaluation and follow-up sessions for a faster healing process.Is it better to rest a sprained ankle or walk on it? ›
Healing a sprained ankle
Resting your ankle (meaning you shouldn't walk on it) Icing your ankle immediately and throughout healing to minimize swelling. Wearing a compression device like bandages or athletic tape. Elevating your ankle above your heart for the first 48 hours.
DON'T do activities that will increase swelling. Avoid early use of heat or too much activity, standing, or sitting with the ankle hanging. DON'T play sports again until pain and swelling are gone and the ankle is strong.Does a heating pad work on a sprained ankle? ›
Heat should be applied after a couple of days when the swelling has gone down and the pain is at a minimum. Heat opens up the vessels to promote blood flow and stimulates healing of the damaged tissues. It can ease pain and improve stiffness before activity.
Is it okay to put a heating pad on a sprained ankle? ›
For most injuries, ice is recommended during the first 24 to 48 hours. This helps reduce the pain and swelling that are part of the inflammatory stage of healing. You can switch to heat when the ankle swelling goes away. The area should not be red or hot to the touch.What cream is good for sprains? ›
It recommends using a topical nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) with or without menthol (which creates a cooling sensation). Topical NSAIDs come in gel, liquid, or patch forms; diclofenac gel (Voltaren Arthritis Pain) and aspirin cream are available without a prescription.How do you rehab a sprained ankle at home? ›
Push your foot outward against a wall or a piece of furniture that doesn't move. Hold for about 6 seconds, and relax. Repeat 8 to 12 times. After you feel comfortable with this, try using rubber tubing looped around the outside of your feet for resistance.What vitamin helps repair ligaments? ›
Vitamin A: Vitamin A is important for cell division, collagen renewal, tissue repair, and vision. This vitamin increases the elasticity of collagen, maintaining strength of tendons and ligaments. Good Sources of Vitamin A: eggs, fatty fish, leafy greens, yellow and orange vegetables.What vitamins should I take for sprained ankle? ›
Proper nutrition may also help heal an ankle sprain. Your physician may suggest taking vitamin supplements that contain vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E, and selenium.What vitamins help injury recovery? ›
Vitamins A, B, C, and D as well as calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, and zinc are all important for injury recovery. (Interestingly, vitamin E may slow healing so avoid vitamin E supplements during injury.)What foods heal tendons? ›
The collagen that vitamin-C produces also improves the body's ability to maintain bone, muscle, and tendons. The obvious place to start is with citrus fruits – such as oranges and grapefruits. Bell peppers, spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, and kiwi also have plenty of vitamin C.Does massage help damaged ligaments? ›
Massage therapy and a visit to the chiropractor are important steps in faster healing. Soft tissue massage is the best option for targeting injuries in the muscles, tendons, and ligaments.Do ligaments show up on xrays? ›
X-rays don't clearly and accurately show your soft tissues such as ligaments, tendons and meniscus. To diagnose a tear in your ligaments, tendons or meniscus, your healthcare provider will order a computed tomography (CT) scan or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan.What aggravates a sprained ankle? ›
Localized pain at the site of the sprain.
Pain is often described as sudden and sharp, and worsens with movement or placing weight on the ankle. Pain may be relieved somewhat by rest and elevation of the ankle.
How do I know what grade my ankle sprain is? ›
- Grade 1: Your ankle will probably feel sore and may be slightly swollen. In this case, the ligament has been overstretched but not torn.
- Grade 2: You have a partial tear in the ligament. This causes prolonged pain and swelling. ...
- Grade 3: This is a full tear of the ankle ligament.
These may also occur with ankle fractures as well. The most common and significant ligament tears include tears in the Anterior TaloFibular Ligament (ATFL), CalcaneoFibular Ligament (CFL), and the large Deltoid ligament complex.Should you do physical therapy for a sprained ankle? ›
It is important to rest and ice the ankle to help with the initial symptoms that will present following an ankle sprain, and physical therapy can play a critical role in getting you back to action.Does massaging a sprained ankle make it better? ›
Massage can help ease pain while promoting blood flow to the sprained area. If the injury is particularly severe or painful, a person should seek advice from a qualified massage therapist. For less severe injuries, a person can try gentle massage at home.What not to do with a sprained ankle? ›
DON'T do activities that will increase swelling. Avoid early use of heat or too much activity, standing, or sitting with the ankle hanging. DON'T play sports again until pain and swelling are gone and the ankle is strong.How many days should you not walk on a sprained ankle? ›
Getting Active. The pain and swelling of an ankle sprain most often gets better within 48 hours. After that, you can begin to put weight back on your injured foot.What happens if you walk too much on a sprained ankle? ›
While it is possible to walk on a sprained ankle, it isn't recommended. Walking on a sprained ankle can delay the healing process and increase your risk for complications. Ankle pain, instability, and arthritis are common complications of a sprained ankle.