Specific exercises can help prevent injury, or reinjury of sensitive or vulnerable joints such as you ankle. Here are a few that are recommended in the case of ankle sprain:
EXERCISE 1: Range of Motion: Alphabet
Get comfortable in a chair. Sit up straight, but not uncomfortably straight; consider supporting your lower back with a towel or pillow. It may be helpful to place your chair next to a wall, so that you can use one arm to steady yourself.
Holding your leg out in front of you, pretend that your big toe is a pencil. Now, slowly “write” each letter of the alphabet in the air. This encourages the joint to move in all directions. Why do we recommend the alphabet? Because if you tell a person to “draw shapes,” sometimes they have trouble thinking of what to draw next and focus on that instead of their movement.
EXERCISE 2: Range of Motion: Towel
This exercise will be easier on a floor without carpeting. Find a towel—preferably a kitchen towel or hand towel. But if you have difficulty reaching down to the floor, a larger towel may be preferable, as you can keep one end in your hand.
Get comfortable in your chair, sitting straight. Lay the towel on the floor in front of you, and use your toes to pull it toward you, inch by inch, keeping your ankle flexed. Then use your toes to push the towel far away from you, lengthening your ankle. As you get stronger, you can make the task more challenging by putting a weight—perhaps a soda or soup can—on the far end of the towel.
EXERCISE 3: Calf Stretch
If you are able to stand and support your weight, you might be ready for a calf stretch.
Find a wall where the nearby floor will not pose any danger of slipping. Facing the wall, put your hands against it at your own eye level. The leg you are about to stretch should go straight behind you, with your feet as far apart as they are when you take a step. Don’t put your feet too far apart at first; that might be too much of a stretch.
Keep your back heel on the ground and bend your supporting knee until you begin to feel a stretch in that back calf. Hold it for fifteen to thirty seconds, then rest. Although it may feel like you could do this several times, only repeat two to four times if you are in an acute phase of injury. It is easy to over exert yourself without knowing it in this exercise.
Try repeating this with a bend in the back knee; this stretches a different section of the calf muscles. You may wish to repeat both these exercises on the other side, even if the other ankle is fine.
EXERCISE 4: Towel Stretch
If you are not ready to do a wall stretch, here is a gentler alternative.
Get a bath or beach towel and roll it (on the long edge) like a rope. Sitting in a chair, hold the ends of the towel and put the middle of the towel under the ball of your foot. Now straighten your knee, and gently use the towel to pull your toes back toward you. This should cause your calf muscles to stretch.
Hold the pose for fifteen to thirty seconds and do this two to four times. If it is too painful, you may not be ready to stretch. As with the other exercises, you may wish to repeat this with your “good” ankle, as well.
These are just a few ideas to get your rehabilitation process started and should be applicable to the majority of people. Dr. Roman can help you develop a rehab exercise plan that will suit your unique situation and correspond to your unique physical strengths and weaknesses.