Of all the major joints, the ankle joint is the most commonly injured – especially in over 45s1. It bears the most load and there’s a lot that can go wrong. As a result, ankle and foot pain is a very common complaint and one that increases in frequency as we get older.
If you’re suffering from ankle pain, exercises can help to loosen up the muscles and tendons, get your ankle moving normally again, and reduce pain. Here are five simple exercises to improve ankle pain that you can try at home:
1. Ankle circles
Gentle ankles circles will help with a range of motion and will slowly increase your ankle mobility. Do this exercise either sitting or lying down.
- Turn your ankle slowly around in circles, to the left and then to the right.
- If you get bored of this, try drawing the alphabet in the air with your foot, leading with your big toe.
- Focus on using your toe, foot and ankle only – not your entire leg.
2. Towel stretches
This exercise stretches the Achilles heel and plantar fascia, traditionally two of the biggest culprits of foot and ankle pain.
- Sit on the floor with both legs extended out in front of you.
- Wrap a towel around the toes of both feet.
- Pull the towel back slightly, until you start to feel a stretch at the bottom of your feet and at the back of your lower legs.
- Aim to hold the stretch for 30 seconds each time you do it.
3. Slow heel raises
Raising your heel is a great way to stretch the ankle out. This exercise is particularly valuable for treating and preventing inner ankle pain.
- Stand in front of a table, counter or chair for balance and stand normally, with feet hip-width apart.
- Slowly go up onto your tiptoes, lifting your heels.
- Lower yourself slowly back down – stay in control, don’t just drop.
4. Seated foot and heel raises
This exercise not only raises the heel, but also lifts the toe, stretching right around the ankle.
- Start seated with your feet flat on the floor.
- Raise both heels off the floor and hold for a few seconds, before placing back down.
- Then, raise your toes off the floor and hold for a few seconds before returning them to the floor.
- Repeat at least five times.
5. Tennis ball roll
When using the ankle normally, the joint is required to bend and flex as we walk over different types of terrain. This exercise introduces different types of motion to the joint and can be tailored to combat combined leg ankle pain.
- Start standing with a tennis ball (or similar sized ball) under the arch if one foot.
- Slowly work the ball under your foot, moving it backwards and forwards to apply pressure to individual joints within the foot.
- Work the ball around for three minutes on each side, applying more or less pressure in different areas as needed.
Daily exercises like this will help to stretch out and strengthen your ankle, so you can not only improve any ankle pain you may be feeling, but help to prevent future, ongoing aches and pains in the joint. Frequent, daily repetition will improve the effectiveness but may not solve underlying problems.
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