At one point or another most of us will sprain an ankle. After one sprain, we become more susceptible to subsequent sprains due to the stretching of the ligaments of the ankle, and many progress to become chronic ankle strainers.
Most Doctors, PT’s and Athletes know about the concept of R.I.C.E. (Rest Ice Compression and Elevation) this correct when in the acute phase of repair, the first two weeks after a sprain.
We also tell people that they shouldn’t return to their normal sports or activities until swelling has resolved and they can make it through their normal daily activities without an increase in pain or swelling.
A deeper understanding:
The stretched ligaments that take place after a sprain cause a loss of proprioception in the fibers surrounding the ankles. These include the muscles, ligaments and joints themselves. The systems involved are the vestibular, (Balance) somatosensory (Motor) and Proprioceptive fibers (Position in space).
Just like any other system in the body, you can train these systems to improve their functions. I believe that there is an order needed to best rehabilitate these systems and these activities should be done in the following progression.
The next level of treatment and the steps most of us ignore:
To strengthen the ankle there are two exercises I recommend that can be done at home. First, toe raises, you can stand on the floor and simply raise up on the toes for a count of ten five to ten times. When this becomes easy, you can place a book or piece of wood on the ground, and place your toes on the platform, and lower your heel just to the ground and then repeat the heel raise. You can also use a stair or ladder for this. Stand on the stair or step, and standing on your injured ankle, slowly lower your other foot down to the ground. Just touch the foot down and raise yourself back up. Do this ten to fifteen times. (Might as well do both or your legs as opposed to only the injured one, a pound of prevention as they say.)
To work on Balance, you need to go from stable ground to progressively unstable surfaces. First just practice standing on the injured ankle on flat ground. It may feel wobbly but you should work up to being able to do this for one to two minutes without flailing your arms in order to stabilize yourself. When you can achieve this goal, try doing it with your eyes closed. When this is possible, progress to a half of a foam roller. In other words a D shaped half of a round foam roller. These can be found on Amazon by typing in “Half Foam Roller.” Again when you have progressed to the point that the same exercise on the half foam roller is easy, get yourself a balance pad and again start with the easy and move on to eyes closed. There are a variety of balance pads, I prefer the Airex pad again, available on Amazon.
If you follow this progression, you will find that you will not only increase the strength and stability of the ankle. (Thus curtailing the progression down the chronic strainer path.) You will also find it helps you in your sports and increases your performance in whatever you choose do to.
As always thanks for reading and I hope this helps !