When was the last time you walked barefoot in the sand or on a woolly carpet and scrunched your toes to feel every grain or strand? Well this is actually an excellent way of getting all the intrinsic foot muscles working after any ankle injury!
The Towel Scrunch exercise is something that all my ankle clients will do within the first few days following their injury as this ensures speedy recovery and vital circulation to the ankle joint as well as foot muscles. In fact there are many more benefits to this, but most importantly its a great way of getting proprioception (awareness of joint position) back into the joint as quickly as possible. Proprioception is one of the key elements in any ankle rehabilitation protocol as good joint position awareness is needed for any jumping/twisting/landing activity otherwise further injury will result.
This exercise is also something that most clients can do while watching television or reading a book and they will perform these within pain free range of motion to prevent further damage to the injury site. It’s also a good idea to perform these AFTER you have completed the “Ankle Alphabet” as the ankle will then be loose and you will have a general sense of pain free joint range of motion.
The first set of Towel Scrunches will be performed with the Towel laid out in front of the foot. I also advise using a large “fluffy” bath towel as this will give sufficient grip as well as tactile stimulation to get the muscles working and much needed sensory feedback.
So to start:
The Towel Scrunch
- The exercise is performed seated with the Foot placed on the towel and Ankle below the Knee (Knee and Ankle bent to 90 Deg)
- Keep the heel of the foot down and slowly and purposefully scrunch the toes while gripping and pulling the towel
- Try to imagine “lifting” the arch of foot while scrunching the towel
- Hold this for 2-3 seconds and release
- Repeat the gripping and scrunching and aim to pull the towel towards you
- There will be a point where you can’t pull the towel any further,
- At this stage lift the foot, straighten out the towel and continue with the section of the towel that’s left
- Aim to perform at least 10 pain free Full Bath towel lengths in a session
Then once this is completed you’re ready to move on to the next set… Side-Side!
The Side to Side Scrunch
- With the towel laid out to the side with the foot placed in the same position as before (knee/ankle 90 Degrees)
- Start by lifting the toes off the towel but keeping your heel down
- Slowly rotate the foot as far as possible and grip the towel with your toes
- Rotate the foot to the opposite side while still keeping the heel down
- Make sure that all the movement takes place at the ankle and not in the leg
- Prevent the leg from rotating (hip/knee moving) but focus on only moving the ankle
- At the furthest point release the towel and lift the toes up again
- Rotate the foot over again to the opposite side and repeat the movement
- Perform at least 10 full bath towel lengths going in both directions i.e. Pulling the towel Left-Right AND Right-Left
And that’s it! Towel scrunching while watching TV! These exercise can be performed twice daily and are of great benefit during the first few days after an ankle injury.
In a future post I will discuss other techniques and exercises for the ankle and at the end of the series post a complete Ankle Rehabilitation protocol combining all the tips and techniques for a full recovery. Be sure to view the other posts in this series: Ankle Anatomy, Swollen Ankles, Ankle Alphabet