How to Avoid an Ankle Sprain

Did you know nearly one-third of sports medicine injuries are ankle sprains? What’s more? When they don’t heal correctly, ankle sprains increase your risk of re-injuring the joint or developing chronic ankle instability.

While there’s nothing worse than not being able to stand, walk, or even drive as your ankle heals, there is good news. Led by board-certified podiatrist Mark Hopkins, DPM, the team at South Sound Foot & Ankle in Olympia, Washington, is skilled at diagnosing and treating many ankle injuries. 

We also want to share how you can reduce your risk of ankle sprains. Take a moment to review this guide that explains ankle sprains and includes six exercises designed to improve your ankle strength, flexibility, function, and ability to balance so you can avoid ankle sprains!

Understanding ankle sprains

Three major bones held together with ligaments and tendons make up your ankle, a complex and essential joint. But this joint is finicky — even minor displacements in the joint, like when you roll or twist your ankle, can cause a debilitating ankle injury.

When the ligaments in your ankle are injured, you have an ankle sprain. Ankle sprains range from the least severe (Grade I) to the most severe (Grade III), and they’re classified based on both the damage to your ligaments and the impact of the injury on the ankle’s function.

If you experience an ankle injury, don’t wait to have your ankle examined by experienced providers. Dr. Hopkins and the team at South Sound Foot & Ankle work quickly and effectively to prevent complications.   

How to avoid an ankle sprain

Strengthening your ankles is key if you want to avoid the pain, discomfort, and lack of mobility that ankle sprains bring. Here are six simple exercises you can perform today to help reduce your risk of an ankle sprain:

1. Make ankle circles

Making circles with your ankle is a simple way to improve the mobility and range of motion of your ankles. Sitting on a chair or the floor, lift one leg and rotate your ankle in a clockwise direction.

Complete 20-30 circles, making sure you move slowly and pay attention to pushing your ankle through the full range of motion. Once you’ve finished the clockwise circles, do an equal number counterclockwise. Repeat with your other ankle.

2. Complete calf raises

Stand with your feet hip-width apart. You can stand on the floor or on the edge of a step that has a handrail for balance. Raise your heels until you’re standing on your toes, hold for five seconds, then lower your heels. Repeat 10-20 times.   

These exercises strengthen both your calves and ankles and can be done almost anywhere making it easy to fit into a busy schedule. 

3. Write your ABCs

Laying back or sitting on the ground or in a chair, lift one leg slightly until your foot is in the air.  Write the letters of the alphabet with your raised foot, paying special attention to working the full range of motions as you write all 26 letters. Repeat with your other ankle. 

4. Improve your balance 

Start by standing next to a sturdy table, counter, or chair. Place your feet hip-width apart and hold the sturdy item for balance. Lift one foot off the floor and hold, balancing for 10-20 seconds. Repeat with the other leg.

As your balance improves, try standing on one leg during your daily activities, like brushing your teeth or washing dishes. Or consider increasing the time you stand on one leg to 45-60 seconds or standing on less stable surfaces, such as a foam pad, stack of blankets, or BOSU balance trainer, to improve further.

5. Perform heel-toe walks

First, toe walks: Step forward on the balls of your feet and walk on your toes for about 25 steps. Next, heel walks: Lean on the backs of your heels and lift your toes off the ground as you walk the same 25 steps. Finally, heel-toe walks: Walk another 25 steps by moving forward with your heel, rolling onto your toes, and completing a calf raise at the end of each step. 

6. Point, flex, point, flex

Lie on your back with your heels on the floor. Point your toes pointing toward the ceiling, then point them away from you, reaching as far as you can. Hold for 3 seconds. Next, pull your toes back toward your body as far as you can to flex your calves. Hold for 3 seconds. Repeat 10 times.

If you want to learn more about avoiding ankle sprains or need help with an injured foot or ankle, Dr. Hopkins and the team at South Sound Foot & Ankle can help. Contact our Olympia office to schedule an appointment or book online now!

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