Ankle sprains make up about 25% of injuries resulting in a visit to the emergency room. An injury occurs when the ankle is rolled or twisted in an awkward position. Your ligaments are the stabilizers for your joints that help with excessive movement and most sprained ankles involve movement on the outer side of the ankle.
Recently, I did not see a hole while walking and my ankle went into the hole. I felt it turn, and thankfully it did not result in an injury. I am a big advocate of ankle strength and flexibility and for that reason, my ankle was flexible enough not to sustain an injury when I stepped in the hole.
The importance of ankle flexibility and strength exercises is often overlooked and not addressed until an injury occurs.
The ankle is the first major joint that absorbs shock when our feet hit the ground. Lack of mobility and strength causes the body to absorb the shock in other parts of your body causing an imbalance up the kinetic chain. The result is compensation in other parts of your body which could cause you to have knee, hip or lower back pain.
The term ankle mobility refers to the flexibility of the foot in plantarflexion (pointing the foot) and dorsiflexion (pulling the foot upward). Another form of flexibility in the ankle is the performance of inversion and eversion which is the ankle rolling side to side, which is a common reason for ankle sprains.
Strong ankles are just as important as flexibility. It is the ankle strength that helps us sustain our balance and perform activities such as running, walking, jumping and squatting.
Weak ankles are not something that we may pay attention to but there are signs that your ankles may be weak or have a lack of mobility. Some of the signs include repeated turning, discomfort and swelling, chronic pain, tenderness, and feeling your ankles wobble on uneven surfaces, dancing or walking.
Ankle exercises are part of my classes at the end of a session. You can do simple exercises at home to strengthen your ankles and make them more flexible while sitting, standing or watching TV.
In a standing or seated position practice dorsiflexion and plantar flexion while moving the foot forward toward your shin and pointing. Rotate the ankle in forward and reverse circles. Tap the foot, right, middle and left. Practice rolling your foot over from one side to the other.
Stretch bands can also be used with ankle exercises. The bands serve as resistance when doing exercises such as plantarflexion, dorsiflexion, circles, taps and stretching.
Standing heel raises aid in strengthening your ankles and can be done standing at a counter. Raise the heels up and down or extend half of your foot over a step or riser while holding on to something for stability raising your heels up and down.
Single-leg exercises can also help with ankle strength and balance while holding onto a stable surface and progress by lifting and lowering
Squat jumps or jumping rope also add to the strengthening process. Seated ankle strength exercises can be done by pressing the foot on a ball or placing a weight on the thigh while raising and lowering the foot.
It is important to know when to see a podiatrist. Left untreated, weak ankles can lead to activity restrictions. Your podiatrist can recommend exercises and a plan. Ankle sprains generally take an injury two to 12 weeks to heal with varying degrees of a sprain and may need some therapy.
Live, love life with mobility.