More than 25,000 Americans sprain their ankle each and every day, and while they all vary in severity, the unfortunate reality is that many people end up dealing with lingering symptoms because they don’t appropriately treat their sprain. Sprained ankles involve tearing and damage to the ligaments that help to support the ankle joint, so if these ligaments don’t heal correctly, your ankle can become unstable and leave you susceptible to future sprains and even fractures.
And while there are a few different ways to attack a sprained ankle, arguably the most effective method involves some type of strength training and physical therapy. Below, we explain how physical therapy can help you heal after an ankle sprain and reduce your risk of future ankle problems.
The Benefits Of Physical Therapy After An Ankle Sprain
Physical therapy is extremely beneficial in the wake of an ankle sprain for a number of reasons, but the biggest reason why you should consider PT is because time alone won’t get you back to a pre-injury level of ligament stability. Resting is certainly important, but rest won’t help the ankle ligaments get stronger. Your ligaments are in a weakened state after the injury, so if you aren’t proactive in helping them become stronger, your ligaments aren’t going to be able to provide a lot of stability to your ankles. Left untreated, and you may find that you’re rolling your ankle more often, and that can lead to continued sprains or even a fracture if your foot ends up in an awkward position.
Physical therapy is also very beneficial after an ankle sprain because it can help to restore confidence in your ankle. This is especially important for athletes who rely on quick and explosive moments. If you aren’t playing to your full capabilities because you never really feel like you’ve recovered from your initial ankle sprain, you’re selling yourself and your team short. Mentally overcoming an injury is just as important as overcoming the physical nature of an injury, and PT can help you restore confidence in your ankles.
Finally, physical therapy can also help to restore flexibility that was lost as a result of your injury. As a result of inflammation and ligament damage, your range of motion can decrease, which can affect your physical function and balance. PT can help to slowly increase your range of motion and ensure you remain stable and upright on your feet.
PT Exercises After An Ankle Sprain
Because all ankle sprains are unique and affect people differently, it’s a good idea to connect with a physical therapist in person in the event that you suffer a moderate or severe ankle sprain. They’ll be able to assess the extent of your injury and develop an individualized treatment plan to help put your injuries in the past. Odds are they’ll recommend some of the following exercises for you to perform in person or between sessions while you’re recovering at home.
- Resistance Band Movements – Sit on the ground with your legs out in front of you and a resistance band around the arch of your foot. Slowly work to move your foot in the four main directions, plantarflexion, dorsiflexion, eversion and inversion.
- Alphabet Movements – Next, ditch the resistance band and work on drawing each letter of the alphabet with your foot and ankle. This will help strengthen muscles and ligaments while you move your foot in all different directions. This can be performed while sitting on the floor, lying in bed or from the sofa. Do the alphabet 2-3 times a day.
- One-Legged Balance – Another helpful exercise is to stand on your one injured foot while lifting your other foot off the ground. Try to maintain your balance for 20-30 seconds before taking a break. For a bigger challenge, stand on one leg and bend down to pick up an object off the ground, all while remaining balanced on one leg, or try put a towel or blanket on the ground underneath your foot, as this will make it a little harder for your ankle to remain balanced.
If you confront your sprained ankle head on, we’re confident that you can come back just as strong or even stronger than you were prior to your injury. If you need help overcoming an ankle sprain or another soft tissue injury, reach out to the team at OrthoRehab Specialists today at (612) 339-2041.