For the final installment of our three-part series on staying active despite physical pain, we’d like to look into problems with the feet and ankles that may get in the way of your normal performance. As we’ve seen with a bad back and bad knees, physical activity—especially if it’s a new and unfamiliar type—may sound undesirable, but it’s one of the best things you can do. The same applies to bad ankles and/or feet.
Athletes involved in sports that require lots of jumping or cutting movements, such as basketball, football, volleyball or soccer, are no strangers to ankle injuries. Excessive force when changing directions or landing the wrong way can often lead to injury in the ankle, and the two most common types are fractures and sprains.
A wide range of issues can also affect the feet and lead to pain, stemming from injuries, overuse or conditions that cause inflammation to ligaments, bones or tendons. Some of the most common causes of foot pain include plantar fasciitis, which is particularly common in runners, arthritis, turf toe and stress fractures.
If pain or injury occurs in the foot or ankle, patients are usually told to keep weight off the affected leg for a period of time, and in extreme circumstances when surgery is needed, this may be for quite a while. The downside is that for many people, this means being unable to participate in most of their favorite activities, and even simple things like walking and running become difficult since they require pressure on both feet.
This can be a hard pill to swallow and cause distress in those affected with “bad” ankles or feet, as normal functioning and staying active now become a major challenge. But the truth is, there are still plenty ways to get in regular physical activity that will assist your recovery. All it means is you’ll need to make adjustments and change up your routine.
Here are some types of physical activity that are ideal for people with ankle or foot pain, as well as some to avoid and other pointers to help with your recovery process:
- Swimming and other aquatic activities: just as with the back and knees, any underwater activities are perfect for bad ankles and feet, since there is no impact
- Cycling: depending on the type and severity of the injury, riding a bike may still be possible, but be sure to check with your physical therapist first
- Yoga/Pilates/Tai chi: each of these activities can also be modified to cater to painful knees or ankles, to prevent excessive pressure being placed on them
- Light exercises: your physical therapist can prescribe both stretching and strengthening exercises to help keep the rest of your body strong and flexible
- Wear a brace: for ankle injuries, braces are great for protecting the ankle while allowing you to stay mobile; be sure to check with your physical therapist to ensure you’re picking up a quality brace that’s right for you
- Avoid: any activities that are high-impact or involve jumping or cutting movements, such as basketball, tennis, football and jogging. They should be avoided altogether, especially if you’ve experienced an ankle injury
The key message here is being able to adapt. Sure, swimming or Pilates might not be your favorite form of exercise, but if you want to recover faster and be ready to return once your injury heals, it’s imperative that you find new ways to stay active to keep your fitness level high. For more advice on how you can stay active while dealing with an injured foot or ankle, or for any other aches or pains, call ARS Hand and Physical Therapy in Springfield, NJ at 973-379-7006.