An estimated 23,000 people sprain their ankles every day. And if you’ve rolled your ankle before, you’re at a higher risk of doing so again. Here are easy exercises you can do at home to avoid the pain of a sprained ankle.
Sprained ankles happen when the ligaments of the ankle are injured.These ligaments are responsible for maintaining joint stability. When you roll your ankle past it’s range of motion, you can overstretch or tear the ligaments. This will result in mild to severe pain, instability, and swelling, depending on the nature of the sprain.
If you’ve been lucky enough to avoid a sprained ankle, then you may have very good stability. Restoring (and maintaining) full mobility, strength, and balance is important to decrease further risk of reinjury.
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What can I do to prevent or decrease my risk of a sprained ankle?
Often I see people focus just on ankle strength or worse, nothing at all. When you sprain an ankle, the balance receptors in your ankle need to be restored. Working on strength, and training balance in different planes of motion, is very beneficial in restoring proper stability in the ankle.
Also, strengthening the body further up the chain from the ankle helps decrease the stress the ankles undergo with quick movements (1). Check out the exercises below to bulletproof your ankles!
Standing Calf Stretch | 3 sets of 60 seconds per side
Stand next to a wall in a staggered stance position with one leg back and one leg forward. Keep the rear leg straight with your heel on the ground. Next, lean forward until you feel a stretch in the rear leg calf.
Standing Bent Knee Calf Stretch | 3 sets of 60 seconds per side
Stand next to a wall in a staggered stance position with one leg back and one leg forward. Keep the rear leg bent with your heel on the ground. Next, lean forward until you feel a stretch in the rear leg calf. You may feel this stretch in the lower part of your calf.
Half-Kneeling Ankle Rockers | 3 sets of 10 reps in each direction
Start in a half-kneeling position with one leg forward and one leg backwards. Keep your forward foot flat and rock forward from your hips. The front ankle is the ankle you are mobilizing. Rock forward to the center, inside, and outside corners of your ankle.
Towel Scrunches | 3 sets of 15 reps
In a standing or sitting position, place a towel underneath your foot. Ideally, you should have the towel on a hard wooden floor or tiled floor. Keeping your heel on the ground, use your toes to scrunch up the towel, and then push it back out flat again. This is much harder than it looks!
Self-Banded 3-way Ankle | 3 sets of 15 reps for each direction
In a long sitting position, place a tied band around the middle of your foot.
For plantarflexion: Hold the band with one hand and push down with your ankle like you’re pushing on a gas pedal.
For inversion: Hold the band with one hand. Cross the leg you are working over the other. Wrap the band around both of your legs and turn your ankle inwards against the resistance.
For eversion: Hold the band with one hand. Wrap the band around the opposite leg and turn your ankle outwards against the resistance.
Captain Morgans | 3 sets of 45 seconds per side
Place an exercise ball between your lower thigh and the wall. On the stance leg, perform a mini single leg squat to get into position. Next push your opposite leg into the ball and hold. You should feel your stance leg glute working. However, you may feel both glutes working.
Bulgarian Split Squat | 3 sets of 15 reps per side
Place one leg on an exercise ball or chair. Next place one leg in front and perform a squat being sure to keep your knee straight throughout the movement. Contract your glute muscles on the way up from the squat.
Note: You may want to start all balance exercises next to a counter or a chair to hold on to.
Single Leg Balance | 3 sets of 30 seconds per side
Get into a single leg balance position by lifting up one leg and placing it behind you. Engage your core and glutes to avoid trunk lean and try to “stand” up tall.
Single Leg Balance Eyes Closed | 3 sets of 30 seconds per side
Get into a single leg balance position by lifting up one leg and placing it behind you. Engage your core and glutes to avoid trunk lean and try to “stand” up tall. Next, close your eyes. Be sure to have a strong stable base and something to hold on to if you lose your balance.
Y-Balance Exercise | 3 sets of 8 reps in each direction
Get into a single leg balance position by lifting up one leg and placing it behind you. Next, take the leg that is lifted up and reach forward as far as you can. Then reach out to the side at a 45 degree angle as far as you can. Finally, reach behind your body and cross to the opposite side as far as you can. Be sure not to twist at your trunk, maintain a good knee position, and don’t tap the ground during the movements.
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