Effective Hydrotherapy Exercises for Treating Lateral Ankle Sprains

The lateral ligaments of an ankle are most likely to be damaged in sprained ankles. A complete rehabilitation program for lateral ankle sprains can mean the difference between a fully healed ankle and a more serious sprain down the road. Chronic lateral ankle pain can develop after a sprain as well.

One of the most effective ways to treat a lateral ankle sprain is hydrotherapy. Check out the hydrotherapy exercises below to learn the best tips and exercises for treating a lateral ankle sprain.

Hydrotherapy exercises: lateral ankle sprain sample progression

Always consult a medical health care professional before performing any of the following interventions.

1. Gait training in a hydrotherapy pool

One of the first priorities following an ankle sprain is achieving a normal gait.

By putting an individual in the pool, the water makes it possible to walk much earlier in the acute injury stage than walking on land. Water’s buoyancy and anti-gravity properties create an effective environment for partial weight bearing exercises. First of all, hydrostatic pressure helps decrease swelling. Secondly, gait training in a pool eliminates the need for crutches or other assisted devices. Without these devices, the injured individual can achieve a regular gait and the involved muscles will fire naturally.

Hydrotherapy exercise: Simply walk back and forth in the pool.

2. Single leg balance on the injured leg while playing catch

Activating proprioceptive neuromuscular receptors is extremely important in the early stages following an ankle sprain. Using a balance exercise with an outside force of catching a ball is a simple yet effective way to achieve this activation.

Water not only provides a safe environment (helping to remain in balance) – its contact with the individual’s skin activates many proprioceptive receptors.

Hydrotherapy exercise: Stand on one leg and toss a ball with someone outside the pool.

3. Double leg line hops

Introducing a low level plyometric mid-way through the rehab process is a common and recommended practice when treating a sprain. Working in the water makes it possible to initiate this exercise sooner than it would be possible on land. In addition, the water’s resistance helps maintain and/or build strength in the muscles surrounding the ankle with limited stress to the joint itself.

Hydrotherapy exercise: Hop with two feet back and forth over a line in the pool. Land on your toes and jump quickly as soon as you land.

4. Underwater running

Running is important to help maintain fitness levels and sustain cardiovascular endurance. Running in the water is extremely beneficial because an individual can do this during the rehab progression. There are a number of techniques to use to run in the pool. Read about 5 easy methods to use. An individual can run in the water during the rehab process long before they can run on land. Running in the water can lead to running on land much sooner.

Hydrotherapy exercise: Run in the water.

5. Side to side alternate leg bounds

High level plyometric exercises should be introduced before an individual returns to sports and an active lifestyle. This explosive exercise will fire fast twitch muscles to improve an individual’s strength, power, and balance. Introducing these in water is the perfect way to progress them from the pool to land based rehab.

Hydrotherapy exercise: Stand on one leg and bound laterally onto the other leg. Once you land, jump quickly and powerfully back to the other leg.

~ Authored by Liz Lecomte

Hydrotherapy exercises for treating ankle sprains infographic (JPG file, 3MB).

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