Orthopedics Leg, Foot & Ankle Treatment & Surgery Print Ankle Sprain Stretches By Laura Inverarity, DO Updated May 19, 2019 Medically reviewed by a board-certified physician More in Orthopedics Leg, Foot & Ankle Treatment & Surgery Causes of Pain Sprains & Strains Fractures & Broken Bones Physical Therapy Orthopedic Surgery Osteoporosis Pediatric Orthopedics Sports Injuries Shoulder & Elbow Hip & Knee Hand & Wrist Assistive Devices & Orthotics Medication & Injections View All If you have an ankle sprain, you understand how the pain and limited motion can prevent you from enjoying your normal activities. A sprained ankle may keep you from participating in sports or from performing your normal work and recreational activities. After a sprained ankle, you may benefit from physical therapy to help improve your overall ankle mobility. The goals of PT after a sprained ankle are to restore normal ankle range of motion, strength, and stability and to help you get back to full functional mobility. Early active stretching is an important first step in the rehabilitation process after sustaining an ankle sprain. With the prolonged period of rest that is required after suffering an ankle sprain, the muscles around the ankle often become shortened and tight. This results in decreased range of motion (ROM) around the ankle joint. To get moving again and to prevent repeated injury, it is important to begin gentle stretches of your injured ankle as soon as approved by your physician. These typically start as active stretches. There are four basic stretches of the ankle that should be performed after an ankle sprain. Before starting any ankle exercise program, you must check in with your doctor to ensure that exercise is safe for you to do. Visit your physical therapist as well; he or she can help guide you through rehab exercises after an ankle sprain. Plantar Flexion Peopleimages.com/Getty Images Ankle plantar flexion is the direction of motion that is pointing your toes away from you. When you step on the gas pedal in your car, you are performing plantar flexion. This motion may become limited after an ankle sprain or after a period of immobilization after an ankle injury. Here is how you improve plantar flexion ROM in your ankle: Push your foot forward away from you (while keeping knees straight) by moving your ankle. Continue until either discomfort is felt, or you can no longer bend your foot forward.Hold this position for 15 seconds.Return to neutral position.Repeat above steps 10 more times. Be sure to monitor your symptoms and stop if you feel intense pain. Dorsiflexion Dorsiflexion flexion is the motion of pulling your toes and ankle up towards your face. Your anterior tibialis muscle helps to dorsiflex your foot, and weakness here may cause foot drop. Tightness in your calf can also limit your dorsiflexion ROM. Here is how you improve your ROM into dorsiflexion after an ankle injury: Pull your foot back toward you (while keeping knees straight) by moving your ankle. Continue until either discomfort is felt or you can no longer pull your foot back.Hold this position for 15 seconds.Return to neutral position.Repeat above steps 10 more times. Inversion Most ankle sprains occur when your foot turns inward too much—a motion called inversion—and the ligaments on the outside part of your ankle are overstretched or torn. Even so, after a period of immobilization after an ankle sprain or ankle fracture, you may have limited inversion ROM. Here is a simple way to improve inversion ROM: Turn your foot inward. Continue until either discomfort is felt or you can no longer turn your foot inward.Hold this position for 15 seconds.Return to neutral position.Repeat above steps 10 more times. If you feel sharp pain on the outer side of your ankle, stop the exercise; you may be overstretching your ankle's lateral ligaments. Eversion Eversion ROM is the act of moving your foot outwards. Sometimes after a period of immobilization, your eversion ROM becomes limited. Here is how you regain that motion: Turn your foot outward by moving your ankle. Continue until either discomfort is felt or you can no longer turn your foot inward.Hold this position for 15 seconds.Return to neutral position.Repeat above steps 10 more times. Ankle ROM exercises are pretty simple to do, and after an injury like a sprain or fracture, they can be done two to three times per day to help regain normal ankle mobility. Once your ankle ROM has improved, your PT will likely progress you rehab with ankle strengthening exercises, proprioception, balance exercise, and plyometrics to get you back to 100% mobility. A Word From Verywell An ankle sprain or injury may limit your ability to walk normally and participate in your everyday work or recreational activities. If you have an ankle injury, check with your doctor and PT, and then start some ankle ROM exercises to help you get back to your normal activity level quickly and safely. Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Dealing with joint pain can cause major disruptions to your day. Sign up and learn how to better take care of your body. Click below and just hit send! Email Address Sign Up There was an error. Please try again. Thank you, , for signing up. What are your concerns? Other Inaccurate Hard to Understand Submit Article Sources Doherty, C. et al. Recovery From a First-Time Lateral Ankle Sprain and the Predictors of Chronic Ankle Instability. Am J Sports Med: 2016; 44(4): 995-1003.