There are roughly 2 million ankle sprains a year, but the severity and treatment can vary greatly. For a grade 1 ankle sprain – usually a minor ligament tear – there may be at home interventions you can perform with approval of your doctor to help speed recovery (usually 2 weeks to a month). But, for sprains grade 2 or above, you should visit a specialist.
Caring for an Ankle Sprain
First, treat your grade 1 ankle sprain using the age-old RICE (rest, ice, compress, elevate) method. When resting and elevating the ankle to reduce swelling and relieve pressure, add some ice for 15-20 minutes. Repeat daily until the swelling subsides.
Compressing the area can also aid and speed up recovery. Having a proper ankle brace during the recovery stage can help protect the vulnerable parts of the ankle while still promoting unrestrictive movement.
Once swelling subsides, begin moving and walking to help strengthen the weakened ankle. But always make sure to listen to your body and if anything causes pain, stop your at-home treatment and consult your doctor.
Once you feel more confident, you can begin to exercise the ankle.
Ankle Sprain Exercises
• Equipment: You’ll need to sit on some kind of chair or stool.
• How to: Use your feet and your toes to spell out every capital letter of the alphabet. Repeat the same process on each foot.
• Equipment: This can be performed on a chair and will require a towel.
• How to: Place the towel down on the floor beneath your feet. Next, take the toes of the foot you are stretching and begin to use them to scrunch the towel together. Repeat this process for 8-10 reps and switch to the opposite leg. In the beginning you should probably only do one set of this exercise, but once your ankle starts to heal more you can increase to 2-3 sets.
• Equipment: This can be performed on the floor, and it will require a towel.
• How to: Once you are on the floor, extend one leg out and then wrap the towel around the upper part of the foot. Use both hands to gently pull the toes towards the body so that you feel a slight stretch. Make sure to hold for 15-20 seconds and then repeat the same process on the other leg. This stretch should be performed 2 more times on each leg.
Toe Raise/Heel Raise
• Equipment: Use a wall, counter, or any other sturdy support system to hold on to.
• How to: The first thing you are going to want to do is hold on to your support system and then slowly rise up on your toes. When your body is on the way back down, make sure it is a controlled motion. Once you have completed the toe raise you will then raise your feet by leaning back on your heals. Make sure that this movement is controlled as well, there should be no momentum involved. These movements will be done one after the other and should be repeated 8-10 times. After the first 8-10 reps are completed make sure to take a 30 second rest and then repeat 1-2 more times.
If you’ve been diagnosed with a grade 1 ankle sprain, you can perform some at home interventions and stretches to aid your body’s natural healing process. The alphabet exercise is a good warm up to help get your injured ankle prepared for the towel scrunch (strengthens ancillary muscles in the foot), the towel stretch (to help loosen up stiffness in the area), and the toe and heel raise (to work the muscles and ligaments surrounding the ankle).