Your ankle is an important joint of your leg. It is the joint which connects your leg and foot together. Each time you take a step forward, the ankle of that leg is keeping your body stabilized and balanced. All it takes is for a simple ankle injury to impact your ability to walk and move around normally.
Of course, not all ankle injuries are serious enough to require surgery. Sometimes you may sprain or twist your ankle the wrong way when you’re trying to move too quickly. This just means that you need to rest and use ice to reduce the painful symptoms. If this doesn’t work to alleviate your pain or discomfort, then you may need to see a doctor for further consultation.
It is important to keep your ankles strong so that they can support the rest of your body. Some of these strengthening methods should be performed regardless of whether you’ve suffered an injury or not. Exercises, for instance, are good just to keep your ankles strong and reduce your chances of injuring them. Again, a doctor can give you the best advice on this.
To get an idea on how to keep your ankles strong and supported, below are the top 6 ways you can do this.
#1: Wear an Ankle Brace
The best way to give your ankle added support is to wear an ankle support brace. This is normally what you’d do if you injured your ankle or have weak ankles because of a medical condition. Whenever your ankle is not strong enough to support your body on its own, that is when you wear the brace.
An ankle brace is designed to keep your joint locked so that its range of motion is limited. You’ll still be able to walk with the ankle brace on, but you won’t be able to twist or turn your ankle. This is the kind of restriction you’ll need if you want to successfully recover from an injury and not suffer another one in the meantime. If you were to stress out an injured ankle, it could make the injury so much worse. Then you’d need to spend even more time in recovery. By wearing an ankle brace, you’ll prevent this from happening. If you simply want to support your ankle while playing sports or being physically active, consider a lace-up brace.
#2: Perform Strength Exercises
The ankle joint contains both tendons and ligaments. These fibrous tissues must be kept strong by performing strength exercises on your ankles. If you’re an athletic person who does high-intensity movements, you need strong tendons and ligaments in your ankles to reduce your chances of injury. In addition, strong ankle joints can help you perform better in whatever physical activity you’re doing. If you perform better and move better, then you are less likely to get injured.
If you’ve already injured your ankles, a physical therapist will certainly incorporate strength exercises into your rehabilitation program. The 4 most popular strength exercises for ankles include calf raises, scissor hops, bounding, and squat jumps. Of course, you need to follow the guidance and directions of a physical therapist when performing these strength exercises while recovering from an injury. If you perform the exercises the wrong way, it could make your injury worse.
#3: Perform Flexibility Exercises
The tendons and ligaments of the ankle joint must be stretched regularly to sustain their flexibility. If these tissues lose their flexibility due to limited use, then your chances of injuring these tissues will increase. Not only that, but a lack of flexibility reduces your range of motion. Therefore, you need to perform flexibility exercises to keep your ankles flexible. Some examples of flexibility exercises include ankle rolls, plantar flexion, dorsiflexion, eversion, and inversion.
#4: Use Ankle Tape
Have you ever wondered why athletes use tape on their ankles? It is not because they injured their ankles. Instead, they are trying to prevent an injury by taping their ankles. This is special white medical tape which is designed to slightly reduce the flexibility of the ankle. By doing this, it helps to ensure that you don’t twist it the wrong way when you’re running or turning quickly. It may take some time to get used to it, but it does come in handy for injury prevention.
Ankle tape is not meant to be worn on a long-term basis. You should only apply ankle tape before performing athletic activity. Once that activity is over, you need to remove the tape. Prolonged use of ankle tape will cause your joint to weaken over time. That is why you only want to wear it when you’re putting unusual amounts of stress on your ankle.
#5: Perform Balance Exercises
Above all else, balance exercises are essential for training your brain to move properly with your ankles and feet. There is something called proprioception which trains the mind to subconsciously be aware of the body’s movements and overall position at every moment of time. This is what guides your foot each time you take a step on the ground. If your proprioception is high, then you’re less likely to injure yourself when you walk or run. But if your proprioception is low, then you’ll probably fall on the ground and injure yourself if you move too fast.
Balance exercises not only strengthen your ankles, but they also raise your proprioception in the brain. There are 3 particular balance exercises which can help you do this. The first exercise is to stand on one leg and count to 30. The second exercise is a more advanced version of the first one. You need to grab a ball, stand on one leg, and toss a ball against a wall (or with another person). Go back and forth with the ball while standing on one leg. Once you’re done, repeat this by standing on the other leg. As for the last exercise, stand on one leg and squat down halfway. Keep the opposite leg in front of you. Aim for 10 repetitions and then do the same thing with the opposite leg.
#6: Stay Mobile
Finally, just keep moving and staying mobile. So many ordinary people end up with ankle problems because they live sedentary lifestyles. If you spend a lot of time sitting down at your desk or in front of the computer, your leg muscles and ankles will slowly weaken. A simple 20 to 30 minutes of walking every day is all you need to get them strong. You can also try losing weight to take even more pressure off your ankles too.