As an orthopedic surgeon, I treat many people each month who have ankle sprains of varying severity. This is a very common injury in all sports. I often treat this injury in football players, hockey players, runners, gymnasts and walkers. It is imperative to know that appropriate rehabilitation for this type of injury must have a component for balance. You MUST do balance and proprioception training after an ankle injury. Speak to your treating health care provider to develop a specific rehab protocol for you. A customized program will help you improve the strength of the tendons, ligaments and muscles of the lower extremity.
Proprioception is a form of kinesthetic awareness which means knowing and understanding where your ankle or foot is placed in 3-dimensional space. Doing these simple, focused exercises can hopefully help you avoid further ankle injuries. These exercises will strengthen, challenge and improve your overall body balance. Here are my top 5 exercises to improve balance and proprioception. They are in a progression of increasing difficulty.
#1. Wall Balance Place your hand, palm down, on the side of a wall and balance on one leg for 30 seconds. Then switch and do the other side. Do 3 sets in the morning and again 3 sets during the evening.
#2. Blind Balance Close your eyes and stand on one leg for 30 seconds. This is more challenging, so be sure to do this near a wall that you can quickly hold, if necessary. Then switch and do the other side. Do 3 sets in the morning and again 3 sets during the evening.
#3. Double Leg Balance Disc Stance Stand on the balance disc which is an inflated semi-hemispheric bladder. This is usually a blue disc in the gym. Stand with both feet on the disc for 30 seconds. Try to minimize a lot of random rocking movement with your arms, as you become more stable. This can be done with your arms held out to the side or with your arms down next to your body, which is more of a challenge. Do 3 sets in the morning and again 3 sets during the evening.
#4. Single Leg Balance Disc Stance Stand on the balance disc with one leg. Do this next to a wall initially, for support. Do 3 sets in the morning and again 3 sets during the evening.
#5. Blind Single Leg Balance Disc Stance Stand on the balance disc with one leg with your eyes closed. Do this next to a wall initially for support or with a partner holding your hands. This is VERY challenging! Do 3 sets in the morning and again 3 sets during the evening.
These are basic exercises to retrain and improve your balance and proprioception. Consider increasing the difficulty as you become more stable with the progression of exercises. You can also mix and change the sequence of exercises, if you really want to challenge yourself; however, I highly recommend keeping the order of exercises as presented.
This article was inspired by Kristin Nieuwenhuis, who is a news producer here in Los Angeles on channel 11. She shared with me and my team here recent ankle injury history during a news taping segment. She wanted info about improving her balance. This article will definitely help her on this journey and hopefully other individuals who have had ankle injuries and associated balance issues.
Be sure to ask your health care practitioner when is the best time to start your balance/ proprioception retraining program.
Keep on exercising! Exercise is life!
Peace and health,
Dr. Levi….The Fitness Doctor