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Ankle Exercises After Surgery

Ankle surgery is needed to treat problems that can’t be solved with medications or therapy. Some of these problems include fractures,  arthritis, and tendon or ligament injuries. Nevertheless, even with ankle surgery, it is necessary to exercise to regain felxilibity. Post-op exercises help with ankle surgery rehab, speeding up recovery, preventing deformity, and reducing susceptibility to another ankle injury.

This article discusses 13 ankle exercises that lower your risk of re-injury. Fortunately, you can do these exercises at home. Kindly read along but keep in mind that there are specific exercises for specific surgeries that should be provided only by your surgeon or PT. The following exercises are a general guideline and you shoulde check with the PT before starting. 

What To Do Before Exercising

Before exercising, it is essential to warm up for about 5 minutes. Low-impact activities like walking are great. After warming up, try to stretch before commencing the exercises. It would be best if you also stretch after the exercises. It is important to note that you shouldn’t feel pain during a workout. Contact your doctor if you feel any pain during the exercise.

#1 - Heel Cord Stretch

The heel cord stretch works your Gastrocnemius-soleus complex. Therefore, you should feel the stretch in your calf and heel. This exercise is excellent physical therapy after ankle surgery. You do not need equipment for this exercise. During the exercise, avoid arching your back.

Directions

  • Stand and face the wall, placing your unaffected leg forward and slightly bending the knee. The affected leg should be straight and behind you with your heel flat and toes pointed slightly in
  • Keep your heels flat on the floor while pressing your hips forward towards the wall
  • Hold the position for 30 seconds
  • Relax for 30 seconds
  • Repeat

#2 - Golf Ball Roll

The golf ball roll exercise works your plantar fascia ligament. Therefore, you should feel the exercise at the bottom of your foot. The only equipment you need is a golf ball. During the exercise, ensure you sit up tall while keeping your foot toward the chair.

Directions

  • Sit on a steady chair, keeping both feet planted on the floor
  • Place and roll a golf ball under the arch of the affected foot
  • Roll the ball for 2 minutes

#3 – Calf Raises

Calf raises work your Gastrocnemius-soleus complex. Therefore, you should feel this exercise in your calf. It would be best if you had a chair to support the calf raises. During this exercise, avoid bending the knee of your working leg.

Directions

  • Stand and evenly distribute your weight over both feet
  • Hold onto the wall or back of a chair for support
  • Lift your unaffected foot, transferring all your weight to the affected foot
  • Raise the affected foot’s heel as high as possible, then lower it
  • Repeat

#4 – Towel Stretch

Towel stretch works your Gastrocnemius-soleus complex. Therefore, you will feel this exercise in your calf and heel. You need a hand towel for the exercise. During the stretch, ensure you sit up tall while keeping your legs straight

Directions

  • Sit on the floor, stretching both legs out in front of you
  • Loop a towel around the affected foot’s ball while grasping the ends of the towel in your hands
  • Hold the pose for 30 seconds, then relax for 30 seconds
  • Repeat

#5 – Ankle Range Of Motion

Ankle range of motion works the evertors, invertors, dorsiflexors, and plantar flexors. This exercise stretches your ankle, so you should feel it throughout your ankle and at the top of your foot. You do not need any equipment for the ankle range of motion. Nevertheless, ensure you only carry out small movements using your ankle and foot.

Directions

  • Sit down but do not let your feet touch the floor
  • Write each alphabet in the air using your foot. You can lead with your big toe

#6 – Towel Curls

Towel curls work the plantar flexors. Therefore, you feel this exercise at the top of your toes and feet. The only equipment you need for a towel curl is a hand towel. You can make the towel curl exercise more challenging by adding weight to the towel's edge.

Directions

  • Sit and keep both feet flat
  • Place the hand towel in front of you on the floor
  • Use your toes to grab the towel’s center and curl it towards you
  • Relax and repeat the exercise

#7 – Heel Cord Stretch With Bent Knee

The heel cord stretch with bent knee exercise works your soleus muscles. Therefore, you should feel the exercise in your calf, heel, and sides of the ankle. You do not need any equipment for this exercise. A precaution to note is to keep your hips centered over your feet.

Directions

  • Stand and face a wall. Ensure the unaffected leg is in front while slightly bending the knee. Also, the affected leg should be behind you while slightly pointing the toes and bending the knee
  • Keep your heels flat on the floor
  • Press your hips forward towards the wall
  • Hold the stretch for 30 seconds
  • Relax for 30 seconds
  • Repeat

#8 – Marble Pickup

The marble pickup exercise works your plantar flexors muscles. Consequently, you should feel the exercise at the top of your toes and foot. You need 20 marbles to carry out this exercise. During the exercise, ensure you do not place the marbles too far in front or to the side.

Directions

  • Sit with both feet flat
  • Place the marbles on the floor in front of you
  • Pick one marble at a time with your toes and place it into a bowl
  • Repeat the exercise till you pick all the marbles

#9 – Ankle Dorsiflexion

The ankle dorsiflexion exercise works your gastrocnemius-soleus complex and anterior tibialis. Therefore, you should feel the exercise in your calf, the top of your foot, and the back of your heel. The only equipment you need for this exercise is an elastic stretch band. Ensure the band is of comfortable resistance. In addition, it is best to keep your leg straight and your heel on the floor during the exercise for support.

Directions

  • Sit on the floor and keep your legs straight in front of you
  • Anchor the elastic band on a table leg or chair and wrap it around your foot.
  • Pull your toes towards you
  • Slowly return the toes toward the start position
  • Repeat

#10 – Ankle Plantar Flexion

The ankle plantar flexion exercise works your gastrocnemius-soleus complex and anterior tibialis. Therefore, you should feel the exercise in your calf, the top of your foot, and the back of your heel. It would be best if you had an elastic stretch band of comfortable resistance for this exercise. It is essential to keep your leg straight and your heel on the floor during the exercise for support.

Directions

  • Sit on the floor and keep your legs straight in front of you
  • Wrap the elastic band around your foot while holding the ends in your hand
  • Gently point your toes
  • Slowly return the toes toward the start position
  • Repeat

#11 – Ankle Pumps

The ankle pump exercise is one of the best physical therapy after ankle surgery. This exercise prevents the formation of blood clots in your lower leg. In addition, the exercise works your gastrocnemius-soleus complex. Therefore, you should feel this exercise in your calf. Although you do not need equipment for this exercise, you can use a weight-bear if your operational therapist considers it safe. It is important to note that you can exercise while lying on your back if you have swelling.

Directions

  • Stand up straight and also keep your knees straight
  • Pulling your toes towards your head, stand on your toes
  • Repeat
  • If you are doing the exercise while lying on your back, put a pillow under your calves and pump your ankles

#12 – Inversion

Inversion works the tibialis anterior and tibialis posterior. The exercise involves pointing your ankle toward your body. Therefore, you should feel the exercise in your feet. You do not need any equipment to carry out this exercise

Directions

  • Sit on the floor or lay down on your back
  • Keep your toes pointed up
  • Moving only your ankle, turn your foot inward. The sole of your foot should face your other leg
  • Keep turning your foot till you feel discomfort or can no longer turn the foot
  • Hold the position for 15 seconds
  • Return to a neutral position

#13 – Eversion

Eversion works the fibularis longus and fibularis brevis muscles. The ankle surgery rehab exercise involves moving your ankle outward, away from the body. You should feel this exercise in your feet and calf. You do not need equipment for this exercise

Directions

  • Sit on the floor or lay down on your back
  • Keep your toes pointed up
  • Moving only your ankle, turn your foot outward, away from your other leg
  • Keep turning your foot till you feel discomfort or can no longer turn the foot outward
  • Hold the position for 15 seconds
  • Return to a neutral position

Conclusion

Exercising your ankles improves stability and reduces your risk of sprains. After surgery, the ankle exercises discussed in this article can help relieve pain and prevent further injury, but should be cleared by your PT for your specific surgery. It is best to follow the advice of your physical therapist in Merrick, NY, when carrying out these exercises for a speedy recovery.

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