Exercises to Help You Recover After a Lower Leg Injury

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As an active person, it can be frustrating to sustain a lower leg injury during a workout or game. Luckily, there are things you can do to speed up the healing process. Whether you’ve sprained an ankle or torn a calf muscle, the following recovery-driven exercises can complement your medical treatment and help you get back on the court in no time.

Loosen Up

Always work with your doctor to determine the right time to start exercising your leg. The healing process can be slow, but don’t rush into a strenuous workout. If you work too hard too fast, you’ll risk further injury. Be sure to follow the R-I-C-E method of recovery – rest, ice, compression, and elevation – for at least 48 hours after you get hurt. If you still need to move around, consider using a knee walker to avoid further strain on your injured leg.

Once you’ve gotten the OK from your doctor, start slow. Just like with regular exercise, it’s important to begin with small warmups so your body is prepared to work efficiently later.

Loosen up your muscles to increase circulation. Chances are, all the muscles in your leg are strained and tight. The uninjured muscles surrounding your injury have been compensating for days or weeks now, so relax  them with the following movements.

Lay on your back and move your foot from side to side, or roll your ankle to warm up your muscles. Contract every muscle in your body, starting with the toes, and work your way up. This will improve blood flow throughout your body.

Do this 2-3 times a day for the first few days, and be sure to ice your muscles after every stretching session. Then you can move on to the next phase: flexibility.

Improve Flexibility

Your range of motion has probably dwindled since your leg injury. Gently stretch your legs to get your flexibility back. Your body will heal more effectively with increased flexibility.

Perform your regular pre-workout stretching routine, but don’t overdo it. Try to touch your toes while standing up, but do it slowly to prevent further injury. You should feel stretching, but no outright pain. If something hurts, stop immediately.

Stand up facing a wall with your hands about two feet apart. Put your toes as high up as you can on the wall without lifting your heel off the floor. This will stretch your calf muscles.

Lastly, use your foot to draw an imaginary alphabet on the ground while standing up. Your foot and ankle will be fully stretched after this exercise.

Once your range of motion has improved, you can work on shoring up your muscles.

Strengthen Muscles for Stability

It’s important to strengthen your muscles after a lower leg injury to promote faster healing. Strong surrounding muscles can keep a torn or strained muscle in place so it recovers faster.

  • Start off with toe raises. Slowly lift yourself up to your tip-toes and hold for a few seconds, then release.
  • Strengthen your whole leg by doing a few sets of knee raises. Go as high as your injury will allow, hold for a few seconds, and slowly release.
  • Target injured muscles by using a resistance band. For example, if your ankle is sprained, loop a resistance band under your foot and press your foot down and up like you’re pressing on a gas pedal.

Do Low-Impact Exercises

Once you think your leg is fully warmed-up, stretched, and strengthened, it’s time to get back to exercising. But don’t rush straight back into your old routine. Try some low-impact exercises for a few days or weeks. Swimming is a great way to strengthen all your muscles and get a good cardio workout without risk of re-injury. Or try riding on a stationary bike with a low setting at a slow pace to get a light workout. Or simply go on a walk to increase your overall mobility at a gradual rate.

Perform these recovery exercises in order to help get your leg back on track in a safe way.

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