Don’t Let an Ankle Sprain Keep You Down
Imagine you’re taking a leisurely stroll down the sidewalk, but you don’t notice that the sidewalk is uneven. As you set your foot down to take another step, you begin to lose your balance.
Normally, your ankle ligaments and leg muscles would kick in at this point, contracting to help you regain your balance. But, if you’ve endured repeated sprains to your ankle, these mechanisms may be damaged, and you would instead stumble or fall.
You could have chronic ankle instability.
Chronic ankle instability results from your ankle ligaments being stretched too far and for too long , like an overused rubber band. The more ankle sprains you suffer, the looser your ligaments can get, meaning your ankles will overturn easier and more frequently.
Many people tend to “just deal” with minor ankle sprains, but this can only lead to more sprains—and more problems—down the road.
If you suffer an ankle sprain, there are some easy exercises you can do to strengthen and retrain your muscles:
- Stand on one leg. This will retrain the leg muscles to “catch” you each time you lose your balance. For a more advanced exercise, stand on a foam cushion and close your eyes.
- Use a stretching band. Put the band around a pole or post, and then put it around your waist. Walk away and try to keep your balance under control.
- Do squats on a trampoline. This will also strengthen your leg muscles and help you maintain your sense of balance.
The most important thing you can do when you suffer an ankle sprain is to see a physical therapist. The physical therapist will work with you to strengthen and retrain your muscles, with the goal of helping you regain balance and ankle stability.
Physical therapists can also develop fun and creative exercises to keep you engaged as you regain ankle stability.
A word of caution: If you sprain your ankle, do not resort to wearing a brace or splint for prolonged periods of time. This will only weaken the muscles and make you more prone to further ankle injuries. Only wear a brace or splint when you run the risk of stressing a sprain, like when you play sports or go for a run.
There is no single way to prevent an ankle sprain. The best thing you can do is properly treat the strain after it’s occurred. If you restore the strength in your muscles, you can get your ankle—and your balance—back where it should be. Nobody wants to deal with chronic ankle instability.
And nobody wants to have to stay inside on a beautiful day, just because of an unstable ankle.