The ankle is the most common site of sprains in the human body. An ankle sprain can happen to anybody at a time when you least expect it. Normally, it occurs after a sudden unnatural twisting of the foot which can tear the ligaments of the ankle. An ankle injury affects every aspect of your daily life, most notably your ability to walk and drive.
The symptoms and sign of ankle sprains may vary depending on the severity. There might be tenderness, bruising, swelling and stiffness. Walking can be painful if the ankle sprain is serious.
A mild ankle sprain may not require a doctor’s attention but if any of the following happen after you twisted your ankle, consult your doctor.
- Uncontrollable pain even after taking medications
- You are unable to walk or cannot walk without severe pain.
- The ankle is swollen beyond normal and is not improving within 5-7 days.
Ankle sprain can be prevented by:
- Wearing shoes that give the proper support for the ankle.
- Maintaining the strength and flexibility of the ankles.
- Consult a physical therapist for strengthening exercises
Balance and Strengthening Exercises
Strength and balance exercises, which can be designed for you, can be effective at reducing the risk of ankle sprains and pain associated with the injury. Strength training utilizing the muscles that turn your foot in (these muscles are called the invertor muscles) and turn your foot out (these muscles are called the evertor muscles) may lower the incidence of ankle sprains.
Balance intervention training involves an assortment of strength training exercises. A physical therapist will teach you how to safely conduct these exercises so you eventually can perform them at home or your training facility. Try one of these sets:
- A single leg stance on the floor
- Single leg stance while the opposite leg swings.
- Single leg squats on the floor at a 30 to 45 degree angle.
- Single leg stance while performing a sports activity such as catching or dribbling.
- Try a double leg stance on a balance board and rotate in a clockwise and then counterclockwise direction.
- Conclude with another single leg stance.
It is still important to warm up the muscles before attempting these exercises. Try a light jog or jogging in place, backward running, or running forward with knee lifts for 30 seconds. Power and strength exercises such as squats may also provide the additional ankle support.
Again, these are all exercises that should be practiced and learned with your physical therapist to ensure safety and proper technique.
Physical Therapy and Your Training
Depending on your needs, you physical therapist may recommend balance training using a ‘balance board’, which is an excellent way to stabilize and strengthen the muscles in the foot.
Combined, all the things your physical therapist can teach you can result in a significant reduction in the risk of injury to the ankle. This is especially valuable for athletes, individuals in jobs that require standing all day and women who spend a lot of time in heels.
If you want to strengthen your ankle and minimize the possibility of an ankle injury, all you need is a simple balance training program from your physical therapist.
Paul E. Colosky Jr., MPT, MS, LAT, CSCS