Ankle Sprains: How to Deal with A Summer Bummer


If you spend most of your time indoors, sitting at a desk or working out in a gym, by the time summer rolls around you’re itching to catch some fresh air. That means long walks, outdoor weddings and 5ks; and one wrong step can lead to a big damper on your summer fun.

An ankle sprain is the stretching or tearing of the lateral ligaments of the ankle used to help the lateral malleolus stabilize the foot and ankle(3). Unfortunately people who have already sprained their ankle are at higher risk of re-injury, but can also experience pain in their opposite hip, back extensors, IT band and both knees due to medial eversion of the injured ankle also known as rolling in on the arch(1). What started out as a fun stroll through the park becomes quite the contrary in terms of recovery.

Recovering from an ankle sprain takes time, but it doesn’t mean you are out of commission for the summer. In fact, one of the first steps of recovery can be done during a pilates session. Yes, you heard me, you can still work out with a sprained ankle, and it can help you heal. One of the first lines of recovery for any injury is compression and elevation(3). After your doctor has cleared you for movement exercises like supine abdominals, the 100, supine arm work, side leg series, bridging on the trapeze swing and short spine massage can be done with the legs elevated and zero weight bearing in the feet. Elevating the ankle and compressing it will help alleviate pain by reducing swelling and causing the body to pump newly oxygenated blood into the legs afterwards(2). Compressing with a wrap around the ankle during these exercises can help stabilize the ankle as it heals and will not interfere with any of the movement while reminding you to take it easy on your ankle.

Healing of the ankle ligaments usually takes six weeks(2). After a few weeks of recovering without weight bearing, you can begin to introduce some theraband exercises into your workout as well. I like to use these exercises as a strength building and preventative tool to insure that once your ankle heals its stronger than before. Using the band like a foot-bar, press into the band towards the ceiling while taking both ankles between planter and dorsiflexion. You can also add some eversion exercises that strengthen the lateral muscles of the ankle. Building up strength and increasing the range of motion though the ankle is essential to insuring a full and complete recovery(1). Once you have begun to bear weight normally on the injured leg exercises like footwork, lunging, jump-board and bridging can help build strength and confidence in your ankle stability.

So, if you sprained your ankle, don’t worry! Stay active by doing low impact exercise, regain stability with movement that focuses on alignment, and build strength in other parts of you body while you heal by practicing pilates.

-Mandy Milligan, LulaFit Trainer


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