Our ankles get so little attention, yet they do so much. Strong, flexible ankles permit you to walk, run, jump, and dance. But according to New Orleans orthopedic surgeon Dr. Richard Meyer, if this joint begins to grumble, you’ll find that simply getting around the house can be agony.
It’s important to recognize that sore ankles happen for many reasons. Ankle sprains are common; in fact, people experience approximately 25,000 every day! If you think you’ve suffered a sprain, see an orthopedic doctor and avoid activity until you’ve healed.
So what if you don’t have a sprain, but your ankle really hurts? Your New Orleans orthopedic surgeon suggests having an injury checked out if it’s limiting you from doing your daily activities. If you feel pain in one particular bone, for example, you could have a stress fracture. Continuing to use it can make the injury worse.
Tendonitis and arthritis are two common causes of ankle pain that you may be able to manage through stretching and strengthening. To address these concerns—and to help prevent ankle trouble—try these 5 simple, effective exercises.
Peroneal tendons stretching/strengthening: These tendons run along the outside of the ankle, and they’re crucial for strength and support. Gently roll your feet outward and walk around on the outside edges of your feet for one minute. This helps with flexibility and strength and improves proprioception, which is the awareness of where your ankle is and what it’s doing to help prevent ankle sprains.
Ankle circles: This move will strengthen the muscles located in and around your ankle, improving the joint’s stability. Sit on a chair and extend your right leg, knee straight. Move your right foot clockwise 10 to 20 times, rest your leg for 5 seconds, and raise it again and move your foot counterclockwise the same number of reps. Alternate legs, doing 3 to 4 sets per side.
Dorsiflexion stretch: Dorsiflexion simply means bringing your toes closer to your shin. Sit on the floor with your right leg straight, the left bent in front of you, knee on the floor. The sole of your left foot should rest against the inside of your right leg. Place a towel or band around the ball of the right foot and gently pull your toes back toward you. You’ll feel the stretch in your thigh, calf, and Achilles tendon. Hold for 15 seconds. Repeat the stretch 4 times, then switch legs.
Write the alphabet: Tracing out the alphabet with your big toe is a challenging strength exercise for your ankle. Sit in a chair and hold your right leg straight out in front. Using your big toe as the “pen,” write the alphabet in all capital letters first, then repeat the process with lowercase letters; switch feet and repeat.
Achilles stretches: Your New Orleans orthopedic surgeon warns that age-related changes in the Achilles tendon can raise the risk of rupturing it. From a standing position, step back with one leg, keeping that back leg straight (grounding the heel), and pushing the hips forward while bending the knee of the front leg at about a 45-degree angle. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds and switch legs; repeat 2 to 4 sets on each leg.