5 Steps to Properly Recover From an Ankle Injury

Run or Rest

Ankle Recovery

Most people have twisted their ankles in some way at this point in their life. Whether it be stepping off of a sidewalk wrong, stepping incorrectly in high heels, or even playing a favorite sport, the sharp pain that comes with twisting your ankle inwards can be pretty hard to forget.

When dealing with a sprained ankle, it’s important to understand what exactly we’re dealing with down there. The ankle is comprised of and held together by extremely strong ligaments. These ligaments assist the ankle through the stress that’s placed upon it when moving throughout the day.

In most cases, taking up exercising or playing sports again after a long period of rest affects the ankle’s ability to balance properly, therefore making it easier to twist.

Just like any other injury, ankle injuries take time to heal, sometimes up to 6 weeks. This is why it’s crucial to prepare yourself before starting sports or exercising.

Here are five tips that I have put together for you so you can recover from an ankle sprain and get back to doing what you love, quickly and safely.

  • 1. Improve Your Balance There is absolutely no excuse for poor balance! There are so many opportunities, techniques and exercises that can help your ability to improve your balance. This will drastically decrease your chances of an ankle injury. One way to do this is to stand on one leg while brushing your teeth. Alternate legs for a minute each, all while doing a task you’re already planning on doing! Such an easy and simple way to make sure you’re balance is on it’s A-game.
  • 2. Strengthen Your Ankle Muscles Muscles play a huge role in providing support to the ankle, so it’s important to keep them strong and secure. Luckily there is a technique that can be done in order to make sure this happens. Try sitting on the floor, with your knee straight and the outside of the foot touching the wall. While keeping your knee perfectly still, push your foot out into the wall and hold it there for five seconds ten times. Try repeating this at least three times.
  • 3. Use Ice NOT heat! When the ankle twists a little too far, the tendons have a tendency to tear and it can begin to swell. Now with it still being winter, we may not think that taking a hot shower can have a negative effect on our recovery. Don’t do this! Within the first couple of days of injuring your ankle, the best thing to do is ice the area for 10 minutes, three times a day. BUT make sure to leave at least one hour in between each time you ice. Ice has the ability to reduce the swelling and speed up your recovery.
  • 4. Don’t Rush Back to Activities Too Soon Resting is an essential part of the recovery process. But the amount of time of rest that is needed is dependant upon how badly the ankle is twisted. Usually if the area around the ankle is significantly bruised, it signifies a serious ankle sprain. As I stated earlier, twisting the ankle causes the ligament to slightly tear. Scar tissue molds around the damaged area in hopes of joining the damaged area back together, just like gluing a broken vase back together. During initial formation, the scar tissue is very weak. So, if proper rest isn’t taken, it is liable to tear again before it has the chance to harden.
  • 5. Physical Therapy Once the scar tissue has a chance to harden, it isn’t very flexible, similar to a scar if you cut yourself. To make the tissue less brittle and more flexible, it’s important to seek out your local physical therapist and ask about a cross friction massage or tool assisted soft tissue mobilization. This is the best way to break this scar tissue down. So stay active, remember my tips and enjoy the upcoming spring weather!

Nick Hunter, PT, DPT

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