Home > Patients & Visitors > Health Library > Sprained Ankle: Rehabilitation Exercises
Ankle sprains are common injuries that can result in lifelong problems. Some people with repeated or severe sprains can develop long-term joint pain and weakness. Treating a sprained ankle can help prevent ongoing ankle problems.
Rehabilitation (rehab) exercises are critical to ensure that the ankle heals completely and reinjury does not occur.
Start each exercise slowly and use your pain level to guide you in doing these exercises. Ease off the exercise if you have more than mild pain. Following are some examples of typical rehabilitation (rehab) exercises.
Keep in mind that the timing and type of rehab exercises recommended for you may vary according to your doctor's or physical therapist's preferences.
Range-of-motion exercises begin right after your injury. Try doing these exercises then putting ice on your ankle, up to 5 times a day. These are easy to do while you are at a desk or watching TV.
Try the following simple range-of-motion exercises:
Towel curls. While sitting, place your foot on a towel on the floor and scrunch the towel toward you with your toes. Then, also using your toes, push the towel away from you. Make this exercise more challenging by placing a weighted object, such as a soup can, on the other end of the towel.
Start exercises to stretch your Achilles tendon as soon as you can do so without pain. The Achilles tendon connects the calf muscles on the back of the lower leg to the bone at the base of the heel. Try the towel stretch if you need to sit down, or try the calf stretch if you can stand.
Talk to your doctor or physical therapist about the timing of strengthening exercises for the ankle. Typically you can start them when you are able to stand without increased pain or swelling.
Do 8 to 12 repetitions of these exercises once or twice daily for 2 to 4 weeks, depending on the severity of your injury.
You can usually start balance and control exercises when you are able to stand without pain. But talk to your doctor or physical therapist about the exact timing. Also, don't try these exercises if you could not have done them easily before your injury. If you think you would have felt unsteady doing these exercises when your ankle was healthy, you are at risk of falling when you try them with an injured ankle.
Practice your balance exercise at least once a day, repeating it about 6 times in each session.
Stretching exercises should be continued on a daily basis and especially before and after physical activities to help prevent reinjury. Even after your ankle feels better, continue with strengthening exercises and balance and control exercises several times a week to keep your ankles strong.
Current as of: March 2, 2020
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Adam Husney, MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineWilliam H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Current as of: March 2, 2020
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2020 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups and pregnancy.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.