A lateral ankle sprain (also called an inversion ankle sprain or a supination ankle sprain) is the most common form of ankle sprain, caused when the foot turns inward, overstretching, or even tearing the ligaments on the outside of the ankle. It’s important to properly rehabilitate an ankle sprain and not ignore it, otherwise, you can risk being more prone to future ankle injuries.
In many cases, you can start introducing the exercises below 2-3 days after injury for mild sprains, though you should always listen to your body and be careful when doing these exercises for the first time. Take things slowly – don’t try to rush your recovery.
6 Best Lateral Ankle Sprain Exercises
1. Side Knee Swings
This is a great exercise to start with as it can help ease some of the stiffness that develops after a sprain and the gentle movement will allow you to test if your ankle is ready to start rehabilitation exercises or not, without risking further injury.
To do this, sit in a dining chair (or another chair that offers stability and a close-to 90-degree angle for your knees) with your feet flat on the floor. Slowly, sway your knee from side to side, starting with just micromovements, and working up to full side-to-side movement. Make sure you keep control and don’t go too quickly.
2. Toe A B Cs
For this exercise, lie on your sofa with your ankle propped on the arm, or on the floor with your ankle on a rolled towel or foam roller, and draw the letters of the alphabet with your big toe.
3. Towel Stretch
Using a long towel or light resistance band, loop the towel around the ball of your foot and gently pull the towel toward you until you feel resistance. Hold the stretch for 15-60 seconds, then release. Repeat this 3-4 times. Try to do this stretch multiple times a day to avoid stiffness.
4. Single-Leg Stand
Standing beside a wall, chair, or friend for balance, stand on one leg, bending your other leg at the knee, or hold it out in front of you. Hold your balance for as long as possible or about 30 seconds, then rest for 10 to 30 seconds. Repeat this exercise 5 times.
When you find this easy, try repeating the exercise with your eyes closed, on a towel folded to the size of your foot, or on a balance board.
5. Heel Raises
Standing beside a wall or chair for balance, stand with your feet hip-width apart and slowly raise up onto your toes. Hold that position for 3 seconds, then lower back down. Repeat this exercise 10-20 times for 3 reps.
When this becomes too easy, you can either do one-legged heel raises or stand on the bottom step of a staircase and repeat the exercise, this time dropping your heels down below the step to increase your range of motion.
6. Side-to-Side Jumps
Lay something flat or soft out along the ground (such as a rolled-up towel) and stand with your feet together on one side. Then hop to the other, and back again. Take this slow to begin with, and speed up as you get stronger. You can also make it more difficult by hopping on one leg or making the distance you need to jump over bigger. Using a towel works well here if you’re doing it on a grippy surface (such as carpet), but be careful if you’re on a surface towels slide on as you need something that won’t slip out from under you if you land on it.
Our eBook Joint Health 101 contains a detailed program for ankle rehabilitation as well as exercises to help you gain strength and flexibility in all the most important joints, as well as advice on diet and other aspects of optimal joint health. If you’re committed to gaining full strength and mobility back after your injury, Joint Health 101 is a must-have. To get your copy, click here.