Considering how much weight and stress they’re under, our ankle joints are remarkably small and, dare we say, flimsy. Judging by statistics, it doesn’t take much to injure an ankle; every year at least two million ankles suffer sprains in the United States. And that figure doesn’t account for people who don’t bother to see their doctor about their ankle pain.
You’re more likely to sprain your ankle if you’re an athlete, caused by sudden, high-velocity stops and turns you make during gameplay. But anyone, from kids to the elderly, can roll, twist, or turn an ankle, leading to a ligament stretch or tear, aka a sprain.
At The Foot & Ankle Specialists, Lisa Burson, DPM, and Joe Aoun, DPM, and our team want your ankles to stay strong. Although we diagnose and treat sprained ankles at our offices in Bay City, Caro, and Lapeer, Michigan, we want to prevent them, too.
A sprained ankle usually heals on its own, but it puts you at risk for another sprain in the future. Ankle sprains raise your risk for chronic ankle stability, which could even lead to ankle surgery down the road.
If you want to prevent your first or next ankle sprain, here are a few daily routines that help:
Warm up your ankles
Before you stretch or build strength in your ankles, start with exercises that warm up the tendons, ligaments, and muscles that support these supportive joints. Warming up is an essential first step to any activity that stresses the body.
Warm-up routines get the blood and oxygen circulating around your body to nourish the tissues you’re about to put under strain. The increased circulation also helps you flush out waste products. Warm-ups start with gentle movements that won’t wrench your tissues or joints:
Sit or lie down on your back and lift one leg. Rotate one ankle in a circle 10-15 times. Repeat in the other direction. Then do the same with the other ankle
Stretch your ankles
After you’ve warmed up, it’s time to gently stretch your tissues so that they become more pliable. Flexible muscles, tendons, and ligaments are more likely to recover after being stressed by a twist, turn, or roll. These ankle stretches may prevent a sprain:
Sit or lie down on your back and lift one leg. Flex your foot so that you feel a gentle pull at the back of your heel and calf. Stretch your foot into a demi point (toes pulled back). Then point your toes. Repeat this exercise 10-15 times, then switch to the other foot.
While sitting down, lying on your back, or standing with one hand on a chair for support, lift one leg. Draw the alphabet from A-Z with your toes and flexed foot. Then repeat with the opposite leg.
Strengthen your ankles
Now that your tissues are warm and stretched, it’s time to turn to strengthening exercises.
Raise your calves
Find a staircase or other slightly elevated surface where you can support your balance. Stand with your heels dangling off the edge of the ledge. Lower your heels as far as you can. Then raise them and stand on your tiptoes. Repeat at least 10 times.
Using a wall or chair for support, if necessary, stand on one leg for at least 20 seconds. Your knee can be slightly bent. Then stand on the opposite leg. Repeat at least three times.
Create more of a challenge by holding the opposite leg out in front of you. Raise the stakes by reaching out with your hand and touching that leg. Only do these modifications if you’re already stable and strong.
Pretend you must walk a tightrope: Place one foot directly in front of the other, heel to toe, as you proceed in a straight line. Do this near a wall, if necessary, to aid your balance.
Find supportive shoes
Your little black dress may look great with 5-inch heels, but probably won’t be helped by an ankle brace and a crutch. No matter what your gender or style preference, look for support and comfort first when choosing shoewear.
Many designers create elegant shoes with flat or low heels and toe boxes that give your toes room enough to support your weight. Some athletic shoes are designed with ankle support in mind, too.
Don’t ignore ankle pain
If your ankle hurts, find out why. You may have already stretched or pulled a ligament, tendon, or muscle. Weak ankles are more likely to twist, turn, or roll, even when doing something as mundane as stepping off a curb or walking on a bumpy surface.
Keep your ankles strong and stable by contacting us at The Foot & Ankle Specialists for ankle pain treatment. Book your first appointment online today.