The key to successful ankle rehab is to use pain as your guide… Slowly, gently stretch and exercise a sprained ankle with specific techniques that improve circulation, range of motion, strength and stability. But, you should NEVER do anything that causes pain.
If you feel any pain, then back off. You are not ready for that stretch or exercise yet. Focus on the stretches and exercises that you can do with NO pain. Remember, a little bit of soreness is okay and to be expected.
Another important point… do NOT want to do too much, too fast. People sometimes get excited about seeing fast healing results when they begin a good rehab program and then start over-working their injury, which can cause more damage and force you to take a few steps backward in the healing process. So, take your time and proceed slowly and gently.
A good rule of thumb is to start some very gentle ankle rehab exercises and stretches on Day 1 and then see how your injury responds the next day. It may swell up a little bit, but as long as the pain does not increase, you have done well. That means you can continue. As time goes on, you will be able to challenge yourself more and more…
If however, you notice more pain the next day, then you have over-worked the injury and should back off for 1-2 days. You may need to rest for a few days before you get back to rehab. But, the goal should be to begin the rehab as soon as your injury allows it. Again, listen to your body and let pain be your guide…
Prolonged rest delays healing
Immobilization and prolonged rest are extremely harmful to the joints and ligaments.
While muscles are very strong and have good blood supply, ligaments are much weaker and have poor blood circulation.
After an injury, the ligaments lose water and glycosaminoglycans (which help maintain structure) so there is a net loss of mass in the ligaments and degradation of collagen.
This means that after an injury, the ligaments become MUCH weaker.
In one study, knee ligaments immobilized for even a few weeks showed that the ultimate load, linear stiffness, and energy-absorbing capacity of the ligaments to be reduced to about one third of normal.
In a review of 11 trials involving 868 ankle sprain patients, results showed that those who included early mobilization compared to those following the standard R.I.C.E. treatment reported a shorter sick leave with faster return to sport participation.
In addition, they showed less days missed from work with less visits to a clinic for follow-up, and improved range of motion with better functional scores.
Rehab improves lymphatic drainage
In other words, the swelling in your ankle traps waste and unhealthy blood. Since, the ligaments do NOT have good circulation, it is essential that we improve the healthy blood supply to the ankle.
Improved circulation gets the unhealthy fluid out and healthy blood and nutrients into the injury to help it heal fully and quickly.
The primary way the body achieves this goal of removing waste from the injury is through a process called lymphatic drainage.
Researches found that ice forced this fluid ‘in the wrong direction’ (back into the ankle), increasing the amount of local swelling and pressure and potentially contributing to greater pain. That’s really BAD!
So, what helps lymphatic drainage the right way? Well, optimal lymph flow is effectively controlled by multiple factors including lymphatic muscle contractions.
In other words… ankle rehab, not prolonged rest is essential for proper removal of waste from the injury. We are talking about safe, gentle and effective rehab system that builds up the ankle step by step.
Unfortunately, most people either rest their ankle too long or use random exercises they find on the internet which may not be the right exercises for them and they may not use the correct form.
The key is to follow an excellent program that will safely and actively rehabilitate the ankle for short and long term results.
Rehab improves athletic performance
After an ankle sprain, there is a lot of damage to the ligaments. They become weak, unstable and may even have scar tissue and neuromuscular damage.
Prolonged rest will ensure that your ankle has great difficulty regaining its pre-injury strength, stability and range of motion, because it does NOTHING to deal with this damage.
The only way to effectively get your ankle back to full strength is through a good ankle rehab program that can strengthen and stabilize the ankles as well as heal the neuromuscular damage and break up and remove the scar tissue.
According to research, “the effectiveness of the rehabilitation program after injury often determines the success of future function and athletic performance. Range of motion, muscular strength, power, and endurance must be returned to pre-injury levels so that full, asymptomatic functional activities may be performed to the pre-injury level and beyond.”
Rehab reduces the risk of injury
If you do not follow a good ankle rehab program, your ankle will also be at a higher risk of re-injury, since it will stay weak and unstable putting you at risk for more sprains with impact on the ground or unstable surfaces.
In fact, according to the Journal of Athletic Training:
“Adequate strength is necessary for normal movement patterns. The importance of developing correct motor patterns while subjects perform flexibility and strength exercises cannot be overemphasized.”
Researches found that the risk of an ankle sprain was significantly lower if the ankles were stable within the normal limits.
In one study of127 soccer players, 42% of those who had unstable ankles got a sprained ankle versus 11% of those who had normal, stable ankles.
Again, only proper ankle exercises and stretches that build up ankle stability, strength and improve healthy range of motion can adequately heal the ankle and protect it from future injury.
If you found this article interesting, I hope you will share it.
Together, we can help others learn how to heal properly which will improve athletic performance, lower the risk of injury and help them avoid long term chronic pain.
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