Are you stretching your ankles? Chances are, you’re probably not. But considering how much you use your feet throughout the day, it might be a good idea to start. Your ankles are involved in every step you take, every time you get up from a chair, use the stairs and drive, and so much more! Everytime you stand, walk, or go up and down the stairs, you use your ankle and calf musculature. The more you use a muscle, the tighter it becomes. Especially at the ankle, tightness of the foot and calf musculature can spread up the leg. Think of your leg as a chain – anytime one part of that chain is tight, it tightens up all other muscles on that chain. Muscle tightness affects your joint mobility, causing movement restrictions, eventually leading to pain and/or injury.
How can you tell if you have good range of motion at the ankle? The best test is to stand about six inches away from a wall, and bend at the knee until the knee taps against the wall with your feet flat on the floor. If the knee can’t reach the wall, chances are you have some mobility issues at the ankle, either due to joint restrictions and/or muscle tightness.
So, how do you stretch your ankle?
Sit at the edge of the chair. Place your foot in front of you with the knee straight. Point the foot up towards you and lean into the leg to feel a good stretch in the back of the calf. Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat three times on each side.
Stand close to the wall with the foot you want to stretch out to the back. Bend the forward knee and lean into the wall. Hold for 30 seconds. Another variation is to bring the foot you want to stretch up against the wall with the heel on the ground. Both equally effective, so choose the stretch you feel the most. Repeat these stretches three time on each side.
Stretching is vital for maintaining good muscle length and minimizing your risk of injury. Always make sure stretches are comfortable and tolerable. If they hurt, chances are you’re pushing too hard. Perform these stretches 1-2x/day, and if you have any questions, be sure to ask your doctor of physical therapy about proper form and technique.
If you're in pain or have mobility issues, call FlexPlus Physical Therapy at 508-650-0060 to set up your evaluation and get on the road to recovery! If you're unsure if physical therapy is right for you, ask us for a free pain consultation. At FlexPlus, we're with you every step of the way!