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The Role of Physical Therapy in Preventing Ankle Injuries

Home News & Videos Foot/Ankle Conditions The Role of Physical Therapy in Preventing Ankle Injuries

After an ankle injury, physical therapy can help you manage pain and regain strength, range of motion, and balance. A PT regimen can also speed up recovery from injury so you can quickly return to your everyday activities, occupation, hobbies, or even playing sports.

Just as important, however, is taking steps to prevent injury in the first place. Taking precautions with professional guidance can help you maintain ankle health and mobility, no matter if you’re a runner or other athlete, student, worker, older adult, or come from any other walk of life.

At JAG Physical Therapy, we offer ankle injury therapy services geared toward both injury prevention and rehabilitation. Our expert physical therapists employ varied modalities as they build a custom plan of care for you, including ankle injury exercises, ergonomics, and strength training. Book your appointment with JAG PT today or read further to learn more about how we help patients avoid ankle injury.

What Factors Contribute to Ankle Injuries?

The ankle is a complex hinge joint forming the kinetic linkage between the lower leg and the foot. This joint is where the shin bone (tibia), calf bone (fibula), and ankle bone (talus) meet, and its structure helps stabilize the gait and allows the feet to move as needed. The ankle joint not only bears your body’s weight when standing, but it can also withstand forces up to 13 times your body weight during activities such as running.

Since the ankle is a critical load-bearing joint, it is highly susceptible to injuries, mainly sprains and fractures. Common risk factors for ankle injuries include:

  • Playing certain sports such as running, soccer, climbing, cycling, or weightlifting
  • Working in jobs that require heavy lifting and legwork, such as construction or HVAC installation
  • Wearing unsuitable footwear
  • Walking or running on uneven surfaces
  • A sudden impact from an accident, trip, or fall
  • Weak muscles or tendons around the ankle
  • Having sustained a prior ankle injury
  • Overusing the dominant foot
  • Issues with gait or balance

How Does Physical Therapy Help Prevent Ankle Injuries?

Ankle physical therapy for injury prevention largely comes down to ensuring the ankle is strong, stable, and flexible enough to handle normal daily and sporting activities. A physical therapist can help you lower your risk of ankle injury in three main ways:

Strengthening exercises

A stronger ankle is less likely to sprain or fracture under load. Calf raises, plyometrics (a type of ankle exercise that exerts maximum force on the muscles in a short time period), dorsiflexion (raising your toes closer to your shin), and plantarflexion (flexing your toes farther away from your shin) are all examples of ankle strengthening exercises, but your PT will recommend the best routine for you. Exercises like these not only strengthen the ankle joint itself but also the various muscles, ligaments, and tendons in the lower leg.

Balancing and range of motion exercises

The ankle has complex biomechanics that enable the foot to twist, flex, and stretch with ease. However, the ankle joint can become stiff, limiting the foot’s mobility and increasing the risk of injury. Ankle flexibility can be restored through range-of-motion exercises such as toe stretches, ankle twists, and toe flexes.

Ankle balancing and range of motion exercises go hand in hand. Practicing one-leg standing, heel walking, and tiptoe walking helps stabilize the ankle throughout its range of motion. Also, proprioception drills, such as standing on one leg while performing a task, are great for balance training.

Conditioning and rehabilitation

In some cases, the ankle needs conditioning in order to perform optimally. Ankle conditioning involves a number of different strategies, from using ergonomic footwear and re-learning ankle balancing and movement after an injury to gait analysis. What techniques to use depend on the ankle’s problematic areas.

Conditioning may also mean setting measures to prevent ankle injury. For example, based on a thorough analysis of your ankle health, the physical therapist may advise you against certain lifestyle habits or physical activities.

Injury risk factors vary widely from person to person, as do injury prevention measures. That’s why the team at JAG PT specializes in personalized ankle injury physical therapy, addressing each patient’s unique injury concerns.

What Are Effective Ankle Injury Prevention Strategies?

An ankle injury prevention plan is a comprehensive approach to injury prevention that combines several PT strategies and techniques. Here are some of the proven ways to avoid ankle injuries:

  • Incorporate ankle strength, stability, and mobility exercises into your regular workout and warm-up routines.
  • Make sure you have a proper warm-up before each workout and a proper cool-down after.
  • Wear the right footwear for each particular sport or activity – ideally, footwear that’s orthopedically fitted to your foot and ankle.
  • Follow your physical therapist’s recommendations, such as wearing ankle braces or other ergonomic fittings while or after recovering from an ankle injury.
  • Know your limits. Don’t risk an ankle injury by overdoing any physical activity. Ensure you get plenty of rest and recovery in between intense workouts.

Strengthen Your Ankles with JAG Physical Therapy

An ankle injury, whether a sprain, bruise, or fracture, can put you out of commission for weeks. And some ankle injuries can permanently affect your mobility. This is why JAG PT’s ankle injury prevention program emphasizes the importance of prevention. Contact us today or book an appointment at your nearest JAG PT location to get started on the path to better ankle health.