Exercising After an Ankle Injury

Mar 25, 2022 | Blog

When you suffer an injury, you may be tempted to get back to your routine as quickly as you can. Proper healing takes time and pushing yourself to get back to normal before your body is ready can be very dangerous. A sprain occurs when the ligament in your ankle is stretched or torn – ligaments are the connecting point between one bone to another at the joint. Sprains of the ankle are the most common types of sprain because they can happen so easily – placing your foot in the wrong position or twisting it awkwardly. An ankle sprain can vary in severity depending on how far the ligaments were torn or stretched.

Ankle sprains are categorized by “grade”. Each grade has a different time frame for how long it will typically take to recover. Here are the grades of ankle sprains and how long recovery can typically take.

    • Grade 1: Light sprains that usually become fully recovered after 2-3 weeks.
    • Grade 2: Sprains that involved a greater injury to the ligament and may take between 4 – 6 weeks to fully recover.
    • Grade 3: Sprains in this grade can be more severe in nature and often involve a full tear of the ligament and possibly even a bone fracture. The length of time to recover from grade 3 ankle sprains could be 3 months or more.

All of these time frames are variable on a case-by-case basis.


The Healing Process


Your doctor will talk you through the severity of the injury and whether you should see a sports injury expert like those at Nebraska Orthopaedic Center. Doing so can help heal your ankle faster, especially if you’re a very active person.

One of the most effective ways to heal from a sprain is to follow the RICE method

    • Rest: Rest and protect the injured area. Stop and take a break from any activity that is causing it pain.
    • Ice: A cold compress will help reduce swelling and pain. Apply an ice pack for 10 – 20 minutes a few times per day. Be sure to place a towel or t-shirt over the ice pack before applying it to your skin so you don’t irritate the skin.
    • Compression: Wrapping the injured area with an elastic bandage will help decrease swelling. Too tightly and you’ll begin to lose circulation to the injured area. The bandage should be lightly pressed against the skin and for no longer than 72 hours.
    • Elevation: Elevate the injured area on pillows or soft blankets. If the area is at or above the level of your heart it will help to minimize swelling.

Depending on the severity of the sprain, the amount of rest and compressions will vary. In most cases, you should use an ice pack for three days after the injury. This will help keep swelling down and blood flow unrestricted. If the injury was severe, you may need to wear a brace on your ankle for up to 6 weeks.

If the injury doesn’t require surgery, your doctor may recommend for you to try and apply small amounts of weight within the first week – if the sprain is less severe, it may be 1 – 2 days later.

After you’re able to comfortably put some weight on the injured area, you can begin to do rehabilitative exercises. This helps speed up the healing process by getting the muscles to work again.


Increasing Your Strength


When it comes to increasing your strength, it’s best to start small and gradually work your way back to normal levels. Once you’re able to put weight on your ankle and your range of motion is returning, you can do simple exercises at home to help build back your strength.

    • Start by putting your foot against a sturdy object. Push your foot into the object and lift your heel simultaneously. Hold it for about 10 seconds and repeat a few times. Do this three to four times per day to help build back the strength in your joint.
    • While sitting on a couch or comfortable chair, extend your leg out and trace the letters of the alphabet in the air with your big toe. This exercise helps you to increase the range of motion in your ankle.

Always consult with your doctor to ensure these exercises are right for you based on your injury. Your doctor may have other exercises for you to follow.


Returning To Normal 


It’s almost time to return to normal, but before you’re 100% clear, there are a few requirements that need to be met. Those include;

    • Range of Motion
    • Strength
    • Balance
    • Swelling

Always check with your doctor before attempting any exercises. The foot and ankle are made up of a complex network of bones, ligaments, and muscles. Due to the complexity of the ankle and foot, they are particularly prone to injury and strain and may not heal properly if you’re exercising before you should be.

Dr. Weber at Nebraska Orthopaedic Center can provide expert foot & ankle care by working with other specialists and physicians, including pain management specialists, and occupational and physical therapists. Depending on the condition, surgery, minimally invasive surgery, or other types of non-surgical methods may be utilized in the treatment of foot & ankle injuries and disorders.

If you’re experiencing ankle pain, contact us today to schedule an appointment.