What is foot and ankle physical therapy and rehabilitation?

Foot and ankle injuries send millions of people a year to the emergency room. It's important to take care of your foot or ankle injury. Some foot or ankle injuries only need rest. Other injuries may need physical therapy as part of a rehabilitation program. 

Physical therapy helps you strengthen your foot or ankle. Your rehabilitation is the overall process of getting your injury healed. It can involve physical therapy, medication and other helpful healing tools. You and your doctor can work together to come up with a complete rehabilitation plan.

What to expect from physical therapy

Whether you're recovering from a sprained ankle or foot surgery, physical therapy is part of rehabilitation. There are physical therapists with different specialties, like sports injuries. During your first visit, your physical therapist looks at your injury. Then, they come up with a plan to help you get back your full strength.

Physical therapy uses movements and exercises to strengthen your foot and ankle. These techniques can also reduce pain. Once you can put some weight back on your foot or ankle, you may begin other treatments. You can expect some of the following common strengthening activities during physical therapy for your foot or ankle:

  • Squats
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Towel stretches
  • Stationary biking
  • Weighted ball work
  • Wobble board work
  • Slant board stretches

Your physical therapist might give you exercises to do at home. That way, you can continue strengthening your foot and ankle. Doing physical therapy exercises at home may be challenging, but they'll help you heal faster. Over the next few weeks or months, you'll schedule visits with your physical therapist until you're healed and able to walk well again.

Your doctor designs a full rehabilitation plan for your specific foot or ankle injury. Your doctor may also suggest taking pain medication. You might need to use crutches to keep the weight off your foot or ankle. Ask your doctor about shoes and supports to wear during and after rehabilitation.

Common conditions that require physical therapy and rehabilitation 

There are several injuries and other conditions that can get better when you do physical therapy and rehabilitation. These include:

  • Strains
  • Sprains
  • Fractures
  • Heel spurs
  • Tendonitis
  • Shin splints
  • Ankle laxity
  • Stress fractures
  • Plantar fasciitis

Your feet and ankles are made up of dozens of bones, joints and strong tissues that support your body. Get back on your feet by following your rehabilitation program. If you don't follow your program, you may cause secondary injuries that need more treatment.

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