Exercises & Stretches for an Ankle Sprain

Your physical therapist will perform an evaluation to determine both the source and the cause of your symptoms. Below, is a list of exercises and stretches that might assist you in relieving your ankle sprain while you await your appointment. If any exercise/stretch causes you more pain, discontinue the exercise/stretch and ask your physical therapist for assistance.

Breakdown of Exercises & Stretches for an Ankle Sprain

1. Ankle CARs

Research now shows the best treatment for ankle sprains is graded exposure to motion, compression/elevation, and proprioceptive training.  Ankle CARs (Controlled Articular Rotations) is a great place to start after an ankle sprain. In a seated position, take your ankle through it’s full range of motion.  Start with bringing toes up, rotate bottom of foot inward, then point toes down, and finish with rotating bottom of foot outward. This large circle should be performed in pain free ranges.  The goal of the exercise is to stimulate mechanoreceptors within ankle joint and damaged tissue to decrease risk for re-injury. Perform 5 circles in each direction going at a slow and controlled pace.  Check out our video for more explanation.

2. Compression/Elevation

As we discussed above, light motion combined with compression/elevation is extremely beneficial when recovering from an ankle sprain.  Wrap ankle with voodoo band or an ace wrap starting tighter near foot and moving to looser above ankle. Then elevate foot and perform ankle pumps.  If performing within exercise program do 2 sets of 20 ankle pumps then move on to the next exercise. Option 2 after workouts would be to keep elevated and compressed for 10-15 minutes and perform 2-3 times per day.

3. Intrinsic Foot Strength Overhead/Rotational Reach

To maximize benefit of this exercise, perform with shoes off.  Maintain a split stance position with one foot in front of the other.  Most of your weight should be through the front foot (injured ankle). In this position, perform alternating overhead reach with each arm.  Then, perform alternating rotating across body reaches with each arm. If this is easy, progress to overhead/rotational reaching in a single leg stance position.  Make sure foot is engaged with ground by “pressing away the floor” and squeezing glutes. 

4. Star Excursion

Similar to above, maximize benefit of this exercise by performing shoes off.  Maintain split stance or single leg stance on injured foot with other foot toe tapping down for balance support as needed.  In this position, reach other foot and tap forward, lateral, backwards, and diagonally. If you think of it as a clock, you are reaching to 12, 3, 6, and 8(ish) o’clock.  Perform 3 sets of 5 laps on injured ankle.

5. Heel Raise on Towel with Ball Squeeze

Roll up a large towel and place on the ground.  Place toes and mid-foot on the towel and perform a heel raise lifting up onto toes.  Pace should be slow and controlled throughout the motion. A ball can be placed between ankle and squeezed to put foot in optimal position by activating posterior tibialis and intrinsic foot muscles.  Perform 3 sets of 15 repetitions.

6. Banded Squats

Place a band around knees with feet in a comfortable position (usually shoulder width apart).  Put pressure through the band by lightly pressing knees outward and perform a squat or sit to stand on a chair.  Perform 3 sets of 15 repetitions.

7. Toe CARs

Let’s have some fun!  This is a challenging and fun drill to perform to maximize intrinsic foot strength and control.  Maintain a seated position with both feet on the ground barefoot. Start with lightly pressing great toe into the ground and lift other 4 toes off the ground.  Hold this position 5 seconds. Then, switch to lifting great toe off the ground and lightly pressing 4 other toes into the ground (this is the hard one!). Alternate each position for 10 rounds.  Being able to control great toe extension is extremely important for many lower extremity injuries!

Exercises & Stretches for an Ankle Sprain Video

We know it helps for many people to have a visual, so here is a video displaying some effective exercises and stretches to help with an ankle sprain. 


Find Physical Therapy for an Ankle Sprain

By incorporating these exercises and stretches into your daily regimen, you will start to develop the muscles that have been causing your pain. Be sure to reach out to our team here at Impact Physical Therapy and schedule your evaluation today!

About Dr. Eric Hefferon

Dr. Eric Hefferon received his advanced doctorate degree in physical therapy from the innovative A.T. Still University. He has been practicing in the west valley for 6 years and has made strong ties to local gyms and medical practitioners. Dr. Hefferon started Impact Physical Therapy due to his passion for an individualized healthcare approach. He knew by creating a clinic that was out of network he could help give patients the results they deserve. His treatment style attracts patients from all over the valley and even out of state. People will travel to seek Dr. Hefferon’s solutions!

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