Stabilizing an Unstable Ankle through Exercise
Most everyone who exercises, participates in sports, or walks anywhere, has experienced an ankle injury, even if it’s a simple sprain. And, if you have experienced a simple sprain, you know it’s really not that simple.
It’s a common area of the body to injure because the ankle joint is used just about any time you move, making it vulnerable. While the ankle is intended to move in a straight line, it’s often twisted sideways when a person missteps, trips over an object, or steps in a hole.
If you experience an ankle injury, you will most likely be instructed to use the R.I.C.E. therapy method in the first 48 hours. That is an acronym for rest, ice, compress, and elevate. Resting the ankle while icing it will help bring down any swelling that occurs, while compression with an elastic wrap can help to stabilize it to prevent further injury.
After the initial 48 hours, you need to consider rehabilitation for the ankle and might see a physical therapist in doing so. There are stabilization exercises that will help strengthen the muscles in the ankle, as well as the surrounding tissue. Strengthening this area will not only help heal the injury, but also reduce the risk of future injuries.
The following are examples of ankle stabilization exercises that might be recommended while in physical therapy. Or, if you are not in therapy, you could do them on your own to help strengthen and stabilize the ankle.
Balance Exercise while Standing on the Floor
When you stand on one foot, it will automatically test your balancing skills. It’s an easy exercise that can be done anywhere, as long as the surface is stable.
If you are unsteady at all, or the pain is still significant, use a chair to stabilize yourself. Next, stand on one foot by raising the other leg at about a 90 degree angle behind you. Make sure to keep your entire foot flat on the floor, and prevent the leg you are standing on from wobbling.
Once you become more stable, you can challenge yourself by omitting the chair, or by simply closing your eyes.
Ankle Circular Movement
This particular exercise is not only simple to do, but it also is a great way to start moving your ankle again. It will help regain the flexibility within the ankle, as well as stimulate sensory awareness to the necessary ligaments and muscles of a sprained ankle.
Lying down on your back, raise your thigh up with the knee bent. Hold on to the thigh behind your knee to help keep your leg still. Make a gentle circular movement to the right, as wide of a circle as you can tolerate. Repeat this about 25 times, and then circle in the opposite direction for another 25 times.
However, this is not just about healing, as it also aids in creating stable ankles in general. So, repeat this exercise with the healthy ankle as well.
Utilizing a Balance Trainer for Standing Exercises
At times you might be asked to incorporate a “balance trainer” into your routine, such as a wobble board, exercise ball, or a beam. These are designed to challenge you more by maintaining balance on an unstable surface. Merely standing on one requires balance and will work the muscles in your ankles.
With an injured ankle, standing on a balance trainer might be the only exercise on the apparatus you can handle for a while. However, once your ankle has healed, you might try standing on one foot, bending the knee slightly, and straightening it again. However, don’t do this without something to support your weight, such as a chair or the wall.
Exercising with a Resistance Band
Another tool often used in ankle stabilization exercises is a resistance band, which is a strong elastic band designed to challenge you through resistance. These bands play a role in ankle stabilizing in 2 different methods of use. Take a look:
1. Sitting Down – Working with one ankle at a time, place the band under the ball of the foot. Gently push the foot down, while pulling on the band to help resist the movement. Do this about 10 times with each foot.
2. Standing Up – Place one foot in the band, then pull the leg forward, backward, and to the side, all while applying resistance with the band. The leg you are standing on is forced to balance as with the exercises mentioned earlier, but with resistance this time.
These 2 exercises are more advanced and should be done later on in the healing process, or after the ankle is healed completely. But, they allow you to strengthen the ankles to help prevent future injuries.
When you are dealing with an active injury, it’s always best to get medical and professional advice from a doctor or physical therapist before starting any exercise to know for sure which ones would be best for your specific needs.