As you age, a loss of flexibility in the foot and ankle becomes a reality. In addition, certain diseases or injuries can limit your range of motion as well. This can leave you more susceptible to falling, and may even make getting around more difficult. What are some common causes of ankle stiffness and what can be done to increase mobility? Read on to find out more.

Common Ankle Problems

Some common reasons for stiff ankles are:

  • Foot arthritis, a term used loosely to describe any condition that results in joint inflammation.
  • Degenerative changes-Often related to ankle arthritis, they can involve damage due to inflammation or the breakdown of cartilage.
  • Gout, a condition that results from excess uric acid in the bloodstream. This can result in a buildup of crystals that subsequently limits motion.
  • Psoriatic arthritis, a type of arthritis characterized by extreme inflammation and red skin patches. With psoriatic arthritis, you may notice ankle swelling as well.

In addition to these, you may have weak ankles following a sprain or other injury. Fortunately, conservative treatment involving physical therapy is often very effective at restoring ankle mobility and alleviating foot pain.

Exercises for Increasing Motion

The following ankle exercises can increase your range of motion, prevent stiffness, and reduce pain. They are also very easy for you to perform at home without any assistance.

Ankle Pumps-Lie on your back with your legs extended and your toes pointed upward. Alternately, you may sit upright in a chair with your legs straight out in front of you. “Pump” your feet by pointing your toes downward and then raising them up again. This will increase blood circulation and reduce foot swelling. Do at least ten repetitions on several occasions throughout the day.

Ankle Inversion/Eversion-These foot exercises will strengthen the muscle running along the inside and outside of your ankle. To perform an inversion exercise, cross one ankle over the other, pointing your toes downward. Wrap a resistance band around the ball of your top foot, stretching it across the ball of your bottom foot. Hold the loose end of your band while moving your top foot slowly away from the bottom one. Perform ten repetitions and then repeat on the opposite foot.

To complete the eversion exercise, you will need to wrap the resistance band around the balls of both feet as before. With your feet straight out in front of you, grab the loose end of your resistance band while moving the working foot slowly to the outside. Complete ten repetitions and then switch feet.

Ankle Circles-Trace a circle with your foot only, leading with the big toe. Keep your movements very small so that you are moving only the foot and not your entire leg. Perform ten clockwise circles followed by another ten counterclockwise. Do this movement on one ankle at a time only.

Ankle Alphabet Tracing-This one is similar to the previous exercise, but instead of making circles, you will “write” letters with your big toe. As before, keep your movements small and ensure you are using only your feet and ankles.

Toe Scrunches-Place your feet on a towel. Use the toes of one foot to “grab” the towel and drag it slowly toward you. Complete this movement with your toes only. Repeat ten times and then switch feet.

If you are experiencing ankle problems, a licensed physical therapist can help you develop a program that can increase strength, improve flexibility, decrease foot pain, and get you back up on your feet again. They can also help you identify any other conditions that could lead to future injuries. Don’t suffer from foot and ankle pain any longer. Contact Cawley Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation at 570-208-2787 to schedule a consultation.d