Ankle injuries can be painful and very inconvenient. Because an ankle injury requires you to stay off your feet, hurting this area of the body often keeps you from participating in your favorite hobbies and sometimes even hinder your daily routines.
These injuries can take weeks or even months to heal. If your injury leads to ankle surgery, it may require up to a full year to heal. That’s why it’s so important to implement strengthening exercises to avoid these common injuries.
What Causes Ankle Injuries?
Your ankle is a complex part of the body. It’s made up of three ligaments that connect the three bones to each other. Your ligaments contain multiple strands of connective tissue, which is what allows you to move your ankle in a variety of ways from walking, swimming, jumping, and dancing. Injuries happen when those ligaments wear out or become weaker. When those ligaments weaken, you can easily roll or sprain your ankle.
The most common type of ankle injury is called an inversion injury. This happens when your foot rolls inward causing all the pressure of your body to fall on the outside of the ankle, causing the ankle to roll and the outer ligaments to be strained or torn.
A more serious type of ankle injury involves the ligaments above the ankle joint. This is sometimes called a high ankle sprain, and it typically takes much longer to heal than other sprains. It’s caused by a sudden twisting motion that the ankle was not prepared to handle. This type of injury is common in athletes who play high-impact sports like basketball, soccer, tumbling, or some types of dance.
Why Is Rolling Your Ankle So Common?
Unfortunately, once you’ve sprained your ankle once, it weakens the ligaments causing less stability and an increased risk of rolling. These ankle rolls can become so frequent it can lead to more serious injuries in the future. If you’re experiencing numerous ankle injuries, it’s essential to implement strengthening exercises. This can help avoid further strain and prevent surgery in the long run. Here are five exercises that will strengthen your ankle:
1. Flex and Stretch
The flex and stretch exercise is a simple way to improve flexibility, range of motion, and strength in your ankles. It’s possible for anyone to do this exercise, so it’s a great place to start even without substantial strength. If you’re already a pro at ankle exercises, it’s important to continue this ankle stretch regularly because it keeps your ankles strong and flexible.
To do the flex and stretch exercise, lie on your back with your heels on the floor and your toes pointing upward. Slowly point your toes as far away from you as possible, holding the stretch for 3-5 seconds. Repeat this stretch at least 10 times. This stretch is safe to do and difficult to overdo, so whenever you find some time, you can perform this stretch and contribute to your ankles’ overall health.
2. Single Leg Balance
Increasing your balance and stability also increases the strength of your ankles, helping to prevent future injuries. This exercise can be performed on a stable surface, but if you’re looking for more of a challenge, find a slightly unstable surface like a Bosu ball or a dense foam surface. Even a pillow or mattress can be used to add challenge in this exercise.
Once you’ve found a surface, stand on one foot and hold for 30 seconds. If your ankle is wobbly during this exercise or if you can’t hold your balance for more than 5 seconds, you may not be ready for an unstable surface. Choose a more stable surface to practice with. If you’re still unable to hold your balance for 5 seconds, even on a stable surface, place a chair nearby for support, and slowly progress to standing without support.
If balancing on one foot for 30 seconds is easy, increase the challenge by throwing a ball up and down while balancing. The more you challenge your ankles to remain balanced, the stronger your ankles will be.
3. Balance Board Squat
Another stabilization exercise is the balance board squat. This is a slightly more challenging exercise than the single leg balance, so if you’re not quite able to do the single leg balance, wait to do this exercise until you’ve built up a bit more strength in your ankles.
To do the balance board squat, you’ll need a balance board with just one fulcrum of movement. In other words, your balance board should look a bit like a miniature see-saw. You’ll place your feet on either side of the balance board and do 10 squats. While doing your squats, make sure neither end of the board touches the ground.
4. Writing Your Name
This exercise helps increase the range of motion in your ankles, strengthening your ligaments and your ability to move your ankle without injury. This exercise can be performed just about anywhere because it can be done either lying on your back or by standing and raising one ankle into the air.
Whether you’re on your back or standing with an ankle in the air, use your ankle to write each letter of your name. Write your full name 2-3 times, and then repeat with the other foot.
5. Standing Calf Raise
The standing calf raise is excellent for building strength. Not only does it strengthen your ankles, but it will also strengthen your calves. To keep your ankles strong, it’s important to keep the nearby muscles strong, as well.
To perform this exercise, you’ll need to stand with your feet hip-width apart. Stand next to a railing, table, or counter to hold for balance. Then, rise up onto your toes, and then back down onto your heels. Repeat this 10 times.
To further strengthen your ankle, you can make this exercise more challenging. To do this, rise up onto your toes, and raise one foot into the air so you are standing on just one foot. Then, come back down onto just one heel. Repeat this same pattern 10 times.
If you’re experiencing ankle pain or you’ve experienced frequent ankle injuries in the past, it may be a good idea to consult with a doctor who specializes in ankle care. Treating issues early decreases your chance of needing ankle surgery in the future. Reach out to Summit Orthopaedics to discuss your options for ensuring long-term ankle health.