The ankle joint is a significant weight-bearing structure of the body as it takes the weight of the body in standing. As a result, the ankle joint is commonly injured, usually a result of twisting the ankle, causing a sprain. It is imperative to rehabilitate the ankle progressively after injury to prevent a delay in healing and to decrease the risks of future re-injury. As you transition from non-weight-bearing exercises to full weight-bearing, practice partial weight-bearing exercises to aid in the rehabilitation process. Always consult with a medical or trained health professional prior to engaging in any exercise program that could affect the rehabilitation process.
Seated Calf Raise
Calf raises strengthen the calf muscle, the muscles on the back of the lower leg. Strong lower limb muscles will provide support to the ankle and aid in keeping the joint properly aligned to decrease risks of injury. Perform a partial calf raise by sitting in a chair to decrease weight taken through the ankle. Sit in a chair with the injured foot flat on the floor. Slowly raise your heel off the floor as you tighten your calf muscles. Toes should remain on the floor at all times. Slowly lower your heel to the floor to return to starting position. Complete 10 repetitions for one set, rest and repeat twice more for a total of three sets.
Supported Single-Leg Stand
Standing solely on the injured ankle is a full-weight bearing exercise that should not be attempted until the ankle is nearly healed. However, a single-leg stance can be turned into a partial weight-bearing exercise if you take most of your weight through your upper body by leaning on a support. Perform a supported single-leg stand by standing upright and placing hands on a stable object, such as a table or the back of a chair. Shift some of your body weight onto the injured foot as you raise the opposite foot off the ground behind you. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds before lowering the non-injured foot back down to the ground. Repeat 10 times, rest and attempt another set of 10 if your ankle is not feeling too sore.
Squats are a great exercise to tone the lower body, including the gluteals, hamstrings and quadriceps. The ankle joints must remain fixed on the ground during squatting as it takes your body weight as you lower your buttocks toward the ground and back up again. Squats are often an advanced exercise, but with the aid of a chair to hold onto, you can decrease the weight taken through the injured ankle. Stand tall, holding on to the back of a chair. Put anywhere between 25 to 50 percent of your weight on the injured ankle. Keeping the abdominals tight, slowly lower toward the ground in a squatting position. Your knees should never go over your toes, and avoid deep bending, which can aggravate the knees, back and ankles. Pause at the end of the movement and slowly raise your body to return to starting position. Remember to increase weight taken through the arms by pushing down on the chair to avoid putting full weight through the sore ankle.
The windshield wiper exercise is particularly effective for the beginning stages of partial weight-bearing. This exercise increases range of motion of the ankle joint and strengthens the small inner and outer muscles of the foot. Begin by sitting in a chair with both feet on the floor straight ahead. Rotate the injured ankle inward as far as you comfortably can as the outside edge of the foot touches the floor. Pause before pivoting outward so the inside edge of the foot touches the floor. This exercise mimics a windshied wiper going back and forth. Repeat 10 to 15 repetitions for a total of three sets per day.
Jennifer Andrews specializes in writing about health, wellness and nutrition. Andrews has a Master of Science in physical therapy from the University of Alberta as well as a bachelor's degree in kinesiology. She teaches yoga and pilates and is a recent graduate of the Institute of Integrative Nutrition.