5 Best Exercises to Move your Stiff Ankle

Are you stuck with a stiff or sore ankle? Do you want to move it without any pain? Well, you have come to the right place.

The human ankle is a complex joint that is essential for everyday activities such as walking, running, and jumping. Unfortunately, it is also prone to becoming stiff due to a variety of factors, ranging from simply using the joint too much, to serious medical conditions.

If you are suffering stiff ankles, pop in to see our physio and osteopathy team at Surrey Physio. We see people with stiff ankles every day, and help them using manual therapy, mobilisations, exercises, and soft tissue therapy around the calves. It’s amazing how many people respond very well to simple manual therapy for their ankles.

Here are some of the most common reasons why the ankle can become stiff:

1. Overuse: The most common cause of ankle stiffness is overuse, which happens when the ankle is subjected to repetitive stress from activities like running or playing sports. This can lead to tendonitis, bursitis, and even sprains, all of which can cause the joint to become stiff.

2. Injury: Injury to the ankle can also cause it to become stiff. Sprains and strains are common injuries that can lead to stiffness, as can fractures and dislocations.

3. Age: As we age, our joints naturally become stiffer as the cartilage that cushions and protects them starts to wear and degenerate. This can lead to stiffness in the ankle, which is especially common in older individuals.

4. Shoes: Wearing shoes that do not fit properly or that are too tight can also lead to ankle stiffness. This is because the shoes can restrict movement, leading to pain and stiffness. They can also cause deformities in the foot such as bunions or hammer toes which can affect the ankle too.

5. Tight muscles: Tight muscles can also cause the ankle to become stiff. This is because the tight muscles can limit the range of motion in the joint, leading to stiffness. Most commonly this is seen with the calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus).

Here, we will discuss the five best exercises to move your stiff ankle:

The first exercise is a calf stretch. Stand with your toes on the edge of a step or a box. Hold onto something stable for support of required. Drop your heels downwards. You should feel a stretch just below the back of your knee, in the calf (this part of the calf is known as the gastrocnemius). Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat five times.

The second is an ankle dorsiflexion stretch with a towel. Sitting on the floor or on a chair, place a towel underneath the ball of your foot. Gently pull your toes towards you, with the towel. Hold this position, you should feel a stretch at the back of your leg, in your calf. Repeat this 10 times.

The third exercise is an ankle rotation or ankle circles. To do this, sit with both legs straight and slightly apart. Then, rotate your affected foot around in a circle. Do this 10 times in each direction to help improve range of movement to your ankle.

The fourth exercise is an ankle alphabet. Lying bare foot, lift your foot off the floor. Use your toes and ankle to draw letters of the alphabet. Start with "a" and then progress right through the alphabet to "z". Keep each letter and movement controlled and specific. Repeat the whole alphabet to get plenty of different movements back to your ankle.

The fifth exercise is a passive inversion stretch (you could do an eversion stretch to the opposite side too). Sitting on a chair, bend the leg of your injured foot up onto the thigh of your other leg. Gently pull your foot inwards and upwards towards you. This exercise will help improve mobility to the ankle. Do this 10 times to mobilise a stiff ankle.

These five exercises will help you move your stiff ankle and will reduce pain. If you do get pain, seek advice from our team at Surrey Physio and stop the exercises. Remember to do them slowly and carefully, and never push yourself too hard. If your ankle does not feel any better after doing these exercises, seek help from us.

(These videos are provided by Rehab My Patient – the best exercise prescription software for therapists to prescribe exercises www.rehabmypatient.com. If you are a patient needing advice, call Surrey Physio to book a telephone/video consultation with one of our expert physios or osteopaths, or book in face-to-face for an appointment. You can call us on 0208 685 6930 or book online by clicking the link at the top of the page).