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Exercise to prevent recurrent ankle sprains

Musculoskeletal
        1. Exercise to prevent recurrent ankle sprains

First published: 6 Dec 2020

The RACGP gratefully acknowledge the following contributor:

  • Zoe Michaleff

Related GP HANDI entry Exercise for preventing recurrent ankle sprain


 

Your doctor has recommended balance exercises to prevent another ankle sprain.

Key points

  • Balance exercises can help reduce your risk of another ankle sprain. These exercises help improve awareness of your body’s position, movement and balance.
  • Practise these exercises for about 30 minutes most days of the week.
  • Check with your doctor when you should start doing these exercises. These exercises should not cause pain. If they do, stop and make the exercise easier to do.

How can exercise help to prevent another ankle sprain?

  • When you sprain your ankle, you stretch or in your ankle.
  • Your ankle may feel unstable. You may also lose awareness of your ankle’s position whether you are standing still or moving – a common sign is having poor balance when standing on your injured foot. Reduced awareness of your ankle’s position can increase your risk of another ankle sprain.
  • Balance exercises can help improve the communication between your brain and your ankle. This helps to increase your awareness and control of your ankle’s position. Your body can better react to unpredictable movements and surfaces (e.g. uneven ground). Importantly, this can reduce your risk of another ankle sprain.

How do I get started?

  • Pain in your ankle soon after the ankle sprain is a sign that you are still recovering. Check with your doctor when you should start doing these exercises.
  • See this 8-week training program for exercises you can do to prevent future ankle sprains.
  • The exercises are done at home on most days of the week and take about 30 minutes. You can fit them into your everyday life, e.g. balancing on one leg while washing dishes.
  • It is important not to do too much or make the exercise too hard too quickly as you could risk re-injuring your ankle.
  • Your doctor may refer you to a physiotherapist who can help guide you.

What to look out for

  • Check with your doctor when you should start doing these exercises.
  • If you experience pain when doing the exercise, stop. Try to make the exercise easier. For example, if you are doing ankle range of movement exercise like drawing circles with your big toe, reduce the size of the circle. If you are practising your balance, put a finger on a nearby table to help with balancing.
  • Try to progress the exercise again after a few days when your ankle has had some more time to recover. For example, start balance exercises by putting a finger on a nearby table for support and progress to no finger support. You can also start by balancing with your eyes open and progress to balancing with your eyes closed.
  • If you plan on going back to playing sports, consider using support e.g. ankle taping or brace to help prevent another sprain.
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