5 things you can do after an injury to live pain free.

Physical Therapy: 5 Best Chronic Ankle Instability Exercises

Have you ever experienced that feeling of instability and discomfort in your ankle? 

If so, you may be suffering from chronic ankle instability. 

Chronic ankle instability can be a debilitating condition that affects your mobility, balance, and overall quality of life. 

Fortunately, physical therapy can help you overcome this condition with some chronic ankle instability exercises

In this blog post, we will share the five best chronic ankle instability exercises that physical therapists recommend to help you with chronic ankle instability.

Benefits of Exercises for Chronic Ankle Instability

Ankle instability can be a serious issue interrupting daily activities such as walking, standing, and running. 

That’s why focusing on ankle stabilization exercises is crucial if you want to get better faster.

We have 5 benefits for why you should treat ankle instability with ankle stabilization exercises. 

1. Reduces Pain And Discomfort

Chronic ankle instability exercises strengthen the muscles around the ankle joint and can help alleviate the pain and discomfort associated with ankle instability. This can make it easier to perform your daily activities without discomfort.

2. Improves Balance And Stability

One of the most convincing perks of regular ankle instability exercises is it enhances your body’s balance and stability. You’ll be better able to control your movements, which can help prevent falls and injuries.

3. Enhances The Range Of Motion

Chronic ankle instability can make it challenging to move around freely. But, performing exercises that target the ankle joint can help increase your flexibility and range of motion, allowing you to move more quickly and confidently.

4. Lowers The Risk Of Future Injuries

By bracing the muscles around the ankle joint, you can stabilize the joint and reduce the risk of future injuries. This is especially important for athletes and active individuals who engage in high-impact activities that stress the ankle joint.

5. Increases Overall Fitness Levels

Chronic ankle instability exercises can be part of an all-inclusive fitness program, including cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and flexibility training. 

Adding ankle stabilization exercises into your routine can improve your fitness levels, positively impacting your overall health and well-being.

Causes and Symptoms of Chronic Ankle Instability

When the ankle has an injury, the ligaments that hold the bones together can become stretched or torn, leading to instability in the joint. 

But, the chronic ankle instability is often the result of repeated ankle sprains or injuries that haven’t fully healed. 

Besides the two causes mentioned above, read some of the other common causes and symptoms of chronic ankle instability below.

Causes:

1. Ankle Sprains 

Ankle sprains are one of the most common causes of chronic ankle instability. When your ankle is twisted or turned beyond its normal range of motion, the ligaments can become damaged, leading to instability.

2. Repeated Ankle Injuries 

Even if not severe, people who have experienced multiple ankle injuries are at a higher risk of developing chronic ankle instability. Each injury weakens the ligaments in the ankle, making it more challenging to support the joint.

Symptoms of Ankle Discomfort

  1. The feeling of instability in the ankle joint.
  2. Chronic pain or discomfort in the ankle.
  3. Swelling or tenderness in the ankle.
  4. Difficulty walking or running on uneven surfaces.
  5. Inability to participate in sports or other activities that require ankle stability.

If you are experiencing any of the ankle stability symptoms, seeking medical attention from a licensed physical therapist is important.

5 Best Chronic Ankle Instability Exercises

Physical therapy is a good treatment option for people with chronic ankle instability. 

Let’s look at the 5 of the best exercises that can help strengthen and stabilize the ankle joint.

1. Resistance Band Exercises

You can use resistance bands to strengthen the ankle muscles and improve stability. Examples of exercises include ankle inversion and eversion, plantar flexion, and dorsiflexion.

5 Steps to Do Resistance Band Exercises:

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you and loop a resistance band around the ball of your foot.
  2. Hold the ends of the resistance band with both hands and gently pull the band towards you until you feel a slight stretch in your ankle.
  3. Slowly move your foot inward (towards the midline of your body) against the band’s resistance, then return to the starting position.
  4. Repeat the inward movement for 10-15 repetitions, then switch to the outward movement (away from the midline of your body) for another 10-15 repetitions.
  5. Repeat the exercise on your other foot.

2. Single-Leg Balance Exercises

Balancing on one leg can help improve proprioception and balance, which is important for ankle stability. A few examples of single-leg balance exercises include standing on one leg with eyes closed or standing on an unstable surface like a foam pad.

Steps to Do Single-Leg Balance Exercises:

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and lift one foot off the ground, balancing on the other foot.
  2. Keep your weight centered over your foot and engage your core muscles to maintain your balance.
  3. Hold this position for 20-30 seconds, then switch to the other foot and repeat.
  4. To make the exercise more challenging, try closing your eyes or standing on an unstable surface, such as a foam pad or a folded towel.
  5. As your balance and stability improve, you can incorporate upper body movements such as reaching or twisting to challenge your balance further.

3. Ankle Strengthening Exercises

Exercises targeting the ankle muscles can help improve stability and prevent injuries. Calf raises ankle circles, and the ankle alphabet is an example to try out. 

Steps to Do Ankle Strength Exercises:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, your toes pointing forward, and your arms at your sides.
  2. Slowly rise on the balls of your feet, lifting your heels off the ground as high as you can. Make sure to keep your knees straight.
  3. Hold the raised position for a few seconds, then lower your heels.
  4. Repeat for 10-15 repetitions, depending on your fitness level and comfort.
  5. If you find this exercise too easy, you can increase the difficulty by doing it on one leg at a time or holding a weight in each hand.
  6. Remember to breathe normally throughout the exercise and to maintain good posture with your shoulders relaxed and your core engaged.

You can perform this exercise as part of a regular workout routine or as a standalone exercise to strengthen your ankle muscles and improve your balance and stability.

4. Marching 

This exercise is designed for dynamic stability of the ankle and can help strengthen the ankle evertors and inverters as well as overall balance.

Steps to Do:

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your arms at your sides.
  2. Slowly lift one knee to hip level and balance for 2-3 seconds
  3. Then  step forward slowly and place the forward leg down and raise the opposite knee and again hold for 2-3 seconds
  4. Repeat for 10-15 repetitions or as many as you feel comfortable with.

5. Toe Raises 

This exercise targets the muscles in the front of the lower leg, which can help to improve balance and stability. 

Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the ground, then raise your toes as high as possible without lifting your heels.

Steps to Do:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms at your sides.
  2. Slowly rise on your toes, lifting your heels off the ground as high as possible.
  3. Hold the raised position for a few seconds, then slowly lower your toes.
  4. Repeat 10-15 repetitions or as many as you feel comfortable with.
  5. If you want to increase the difficulty, you can hold a weight in each hand or perform the exercise on one foot at a time.

Chronic ankle instability can be a major hurdle in your life so it’s best to treat it as soon as you can. 

One way to start the ankle pain physical therapy at home is to go for a professional physical therapist’s consultation and see what works best for you. 

You can later continue doing the ankle pain exercises recommended by your physical therapist at home. Going to the physiotherapist once a month will also help track progress. 

Wrap Up

When you start with the above-mentioned exercises to stabilize your ankle, remember to start with lower-intensity exercises and gradually increase the intensity as your ankle strengthens. 

If you have pre-existing conditions or injuries, consult your doctor or physical therapist before starting any new exercise program.

Working with a physical therapist is important to ensure you use the correct technique and avoid exacerbating any existing injuries.

Dr. Phillip Carr

Dr. Phillip Carr

Dr. Phillip Carr PT, DPT, MS, PES, owner of BioFix Physical Therapy, boasts 20+ years of athletic training/coaching experience. His diverse expertise encompasses musculoskeletal issues, joint replacements, and more. With a 2018 Doctorate in Physical Therapy, he's a dedicated professional, family man, and youth soccer team assistant coach. Phillip Carr is your trusted source for holistic physical therapy insights.