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Exercises To Reduce Swollen Ankles In The Elderly

What Causes Swollen Ankles In Seniors?

Swollen ankles also referred to as oedema, is a condition that affects people of all ages, especially the elderly. This can cause a lot of discomfort, stiffness and affect the way you walk and move around.

According to London Medical, “oedema is the build-up of fluid in the body’s tissues making them puffy and swollen.” However as “gravity makes fluid fall downwards, the feet and ankles are most frequently affected.”

This can occur due to ankle injury, standing or sitting for prolonged periods, side effects of certain medications, and having a diet high in salt. Swollen ankles can also be a sign of serious underlying health conditions. This can include heart failure, chronic kidney disease, weakness, damage to the veins in your legs, and long-term protein deficiency. If this is the case, it is important to contact your GP if your symptoms continue to get worse.

How To Reduce Swollen Ankles In The Elderly

In most cases swelling in the ankles can often go away on its own with the help of a few lifestyle changes and exercises at home. From raised legs to wearing wide and comfortable shoes, these are just some of the ways you can help reduce swollen ankles. However, if your symptoms don’t improve after a few days, contact your GP.

What Should You Do Before Starting These Exercises?

Exercises can aid in reducing swollen feet. However, it is best to seek advice from your GP or pharmacist before starting any type of exercise. They will be able to advise you, so you don’t cause any further damage.

Our Recommended Exercises:

Here are a few exercises you can try to help reduce swelling in your ankles. They are simple and easy to follow and can be done in the comfort of your own home.

Ankle Pumps

Ankle pumps are one of the easiest ways to control swelling. According to the National Library of Medicine, the exercises ‘utilise a calf muscle pump function to pump blood to the heart by muscle contraction’ and ‘used for the relief of edema and the prevention of deep vein thrombosis.”

Step 1: Lie down on your back or sit on a chair

Step 2: Flex your toes up and hold for three seconds

Step 3: Point your toes down, like you are pushing the car’s accelerator pedal, and hold for three seconds. Continue to do this for 10 repetitions.

Glute Squeezes

Glute squeezes are highly effective to reduce leg swelling and increase your circulation including your ankles.

Step 1: Lie down on your back or sit on a chair

Step 2: Tighten and squeeze your buttock muscles (glutes) and hold for a few seconds

Step 3: Relax your glute muscles for a few seconds and repeat ten times

Single Knee To Chest

As well as aiding with swollen ankles, this type of exercise can strengthen your knees. Plus, it won’t strain your muscles.

Step 1: Lie down on your back, your feet flat on the floor with your knees bent

Step 2: Raise one of your legs to your chest and bring it back down

Step 3: Repeat with your other leg.

Lifestyle Changes That Can Help Reduce Swelling

Simple lifestyle changes such as comfortable footwear and diet choices can help reduce swelling in your ankles. Here are a few changes you can make in your daily routine:

Compression Clothing

Compression stockings are a cost-effective way to help assist with swollen ankles. Compression hosiery should be prescribed by a healthcare professional for your swollen legs as using these on some conditions would be harmful. According to Oriole Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Centre, they are designed to help with swelling caused by varicose veins and oedema. It “helps put pressure on the legs and veins in the swollen locations relieving pressure and increasing circulation.”


Magnesium Rich Diet

Incorporating magnesium-rich foods into your diet has several benefits. It doesn’t just help with swollen ankles, it promotes bone health, and supports cognitive development and a healthy nervous system.

According to Viridian Nutrition foods such as “green leafy vegetables especially kale and spinach, nuts and seeds, whole foods such as oats and barley, legumes, oily fish and bananas” are great sources of magnesium. “Smoothies with blended fruit and vegetables can be useful when taste and the ability to chew decreases, especially when nut butters, green leaves or chia seeds are added to provide a good magnesium intake”


Staying hydrated is a simple way to reduce swelling. Healthline states, “When your body isn’t hydrated enough, it holds onto the fluid it does have. This contributes to swelling.” It can also help with kidney function. Fresh fruits and vegetables can also aid with dehydration.

Epsom Salt Baths

Epsom salt can be added to baths or used for a foot soak to ease swelling and muscle pain. It’s also an effective way to de-stress. Epsom Salt Council states that Epsom salts are a good source of magnesium and “can be absorbed through the skin.” Other benefits include helping with muscle and joint pain, foot and toe fungal infections and other skin problems.

Support Your Elderly Loved One With Helping Hands

At Helping Hands we provide elderly care so that you or your loved one have the support you need to live comfortably and independently at home. Our carers are fully trained to provide you with the support you need.  If you suffer from swollen ankles, our carers can assist with exercises and lifestyle changes, such as preparing meals that incorporate magnesium-rich foods.

If you would like more information on how we can assist you or you or your loved one then contact our friendly customer care team.

Page reviewed by Deanna Lane, Senior Clinical Lead on August 24, 2022