Foot Health

Ready-to-go foot and ankle exercises

COVID-19 has put a wrench in many of our plans for almost three months now, including exercising and moving. Exercise is good for the entire body including the feet. After an injury or surgery, or even a long break from your regular activities during lock downs and while staying at home, a foot exercise program will help you return to daily activities faster and become generally more active and have a healthier lifestyle. Following a well-structured foot conditioning program will also help you return to sports and other recreational activities faster. It will provide a wide range of exercises that can help strengthen the foot and ankle, improve your performance and prevent injury while performing sports or exercise.

Strengthening the muscles that support your lower leg, ankle and foot will help keep your ankle joint stable. Keeping these muscles strong can relieve foot and ankle pain and prevent further injury. Stretching is also important for restoring flexibility, range of motion and preventing injury. Gently stretching after an exercise routine can help reduce muscle soreness and keep your muscles long and flexible.

The muscles of the lower leg and feet as well as the tendons and ligaments that control the feet are targeted in any conditioning exercise program. Usually, such a program should be continued for four to six weeks. However, the exact exercise program depends on the part of the foot and ankle the exercises target and these exercises can be continued as part of a maintenance program.

Exercises are performed three to five days a week, which will maintain the strength and range of motion in your foot and ankle.

Before starting any exercise program, it is best to see your podiatrist or physical therapist to ensure that the program is safe and targets the affected part of the foot.

Following an injury, it is best to wait for the pain and swelling to decrease before starting an exercise program.

Warming up the muscles with five to 10 minutes of low impact activity, like walking or riding a stationary bicycle, is best before exercising.

After warming up, do the stretching exercises first before moving on to strengthening exercises. After the exercise routine, you should always end with more stretching exercises. Do not ignore foot pain, it is not normal. You should not feel pain during the exercises.

Many foot and ankle conditions such as bunions, hammer toes, heel pain, osteoarthritis and injuries can all benefit from foot and ankle exercises.

However, following an ankle sprain is probably one of the most important times when ankle conditioning exercises are ordered by the podiatrist.

Initially, the client may be seen by a physical therapist then they will have to do the exercises at home. The physical therapist may also give additional exercises. Some exercises that can be used to strengthen the ankle after a sprain may include the following.

To restore ankle range of motion with ankle circles, move your ankle in circles one direction, then the other. Perform 10 reps, three to four times per day, progressing until motion is equal in both ankles.

To regain ankle flexibility, initially after an ankle sprain, it is difficult to bend the ankle backwards, or dorsiflex. This makes it difficult to walk without limping or to go down stairs. To help regain the upwards ankle movement, bend the ankle upwards and hold the stretch initially for 10 to 15 seconds, progressing to 30 seconds in a gentle pain-free stretch, for two to three sets, two to three times per day. Do not bounce.

It is important to regain ankle strength because strong leg muscles help stabilize the ankle and prevent future injuries. This is done by sitting with your legs out in front of you, placing a stretching band around the foot and stretching against it; pointing the foot up toward you, pulling against the band for three sets of 10 repetitions, five to seven days per week. Repeat the same exercise by pulling the foot downwards (plantarflexion) and on both sides.

It has been found that people with poor balance have two to three times more ankle injuries compared to those with good balance. Therefore, balance exercises are vital to prevent more ankle sprains. If you are able to stand on one leg without pain, then you are ready to perform this exercise. To regain ankle balance, begin by standing on one leg, the injured leg, without support and hold, progress to a 30 second hold. Next, stand on a pillow for 30 seconds then increase to two pillows.

Lateral stepping and jumping and also strengthen the ankle and improve balance. Place a rolled towel or short object on the ground to the side of the injured foot. Initially, step over then progress to hopping over the towel with the injured foot and remain on that foot. Alternate between the injured and uninjured feet.

Following an ankle sprain it is important to strengthen the ankle to help restore it to the pre-injured state as soon as possible and to also prevent further injury. If the pain worsens while doing the exercises, stop the exercises and see the podiatrist again for an evaluation.

 For more information email foothealth242@gmail.com or visit www.foothealth.org, apma.org or orthoinfo.aaos.org. To see a podiatrist visit Bahamas Foot Centre on Rosetta Street telephone 325-2996 or Bahamas Surgical Associates on Albury Lane, telephone 394-5820. In Grand Bahama, call or visit Lucayan Medical Centre on East Sunrise Highway, telephone 373-7400 for an appointment.

 

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