The ankle is the most commonly injured part of the body, as it is weight bearing and responsible for motion in several directions. A sprained ankle occurs when the ankle twists or takes an impact that strains the joint beyond regular use. After sufficient rest, icing, compression, and elevation, it is time to start doing exercises for a sprained ankle that will encourage mobility and help build strength in the ankle again. Mobility exercises for a sprained ankle should be attempted first, well before any strength building exercises. This will get the muscles of the joint ready for more strenuous exercises in the near future.
Mobility exercises for a sprained ankle should be done in such a manner that the exercise stops if a significant amount of pain is felt. One example of a mobility exercise is the toe lift, in which the injured person will stand on one foot — the one that is not injured — and raise the injured ankle several inches off the ground. He or she will then raise the foot so the toes point upward, bending at the ankle. After holding this position for several seconds, the foot can drop to the neutral position. The injured person should not bend too far past the point of feeling discomfort in the ankle. The converse to this exercise is the toe drop, in which the toes point downward instead of upward.
Once mobility exercises for a sprained ankle have been done several times, the injured person may begin strength exercises for a sprained ankle. Simple exercises include pushing the ankle outward and pulling inward against stationary objects such as a door or wall. One should start by pushing outward or pulling inward lightly and then building up until no pain is felt in either direction. Combining such exercises with mobility exercises will give the ankle basic strength and mobility that prepares the body for more strenuous exercises.
Resistance bands can be used as a step toward exercises in which the injured person will put full weight on the injured ankle. Before full weight can be placed on the ankle, however, strength and mobility must be sufficiently restored. Resistance bands can be looped around the ball of the foot, and the mobility exercises mentioned above can be done again, this time with the band providing resistance against the movement. One end of the resistance band can also be attached to a stationary object, with the other end looped around the foot. By positioning the body with the band behind, one can pull the ankle forward, improving strength in the ankle. By standing with the body facing the band, different muscles in the ankle can be strengthened.