Do you have “weak” ankles? Suffered multiple ankle sprains in your life? Even the ones you ignored?
Chronic ankle instability is a common condition that can develop after suffering multiple ankle injuries and are often a result of “minor sprains” left untreated or not properly rehabilitated. Many of us “walk off” one or two of these while playing sports in our youth. No big deal, we thought. Unfortunately, these minor tweaks can sneak back up on us years later.
The ankle is a complex joint with a very unique structure. When standing and walking the ankle assists the leg with movement over the foot, and assists the foot with shock absorption for the entire body. To work properly, the ankle depends very heavily on the surrounding muscles and joints.
An injury to your foot or ankle often “alters” your walking for a bit. It may disrupt your balance, or can have profound effects on other parts of your body due to compensations (sore hip anyone?).
When you sprain your ankle, the ligaments (whose job is to hold bone to bone) are stretched or torn. Ligaments do not regenerate or repair themselves, so each additional sprain leads to further stretching and weakening. This is why it is so easy to sprain your ankle over and over again.
After an injury, rehabilitation is so important. The ankle requires stability; and since the ligaments are stretched or torn, the only way to regain joint stability is for muscles to double their duty – function/strength and stability.
Typically, the “giving way” that occurs during a sprain, happens while you’re walking or doing other activities. It is typical for it to happen more frequently on uneven terrain, but can just as easily happen while walking on a smooth surface. In severe cases, it can also happen when you’re just standing.
1) A repeated turning of the ankle, especially on uneven surfaces or when participating in sports
2) Ongoing discomfort within the joint with pain and swelling.
3) The ankle feels wobbly or unstable.
How can we help?
Custom foot orthotics incorporate your anatomical structure, and promote the function of the joint effectively. Proprioception and balance are essential, and when ankle instability is high, assistance from an external source can help the foot and ankle remember the desired motor pattern of the muscles.
Custom orthotics can also reduce the lateral spill and turning over of the ankle by ensuring the lateral forefoot balance is even to promote forward motion through the 1st and 2nd toe, and not off the outside of the foot.
Higher cut footwear (shoes that allow you to sit deeper) can improve your proprioception and increase the sensory stability of the ankle. Confidence with each step maintains activity and reduces symptoms related to immobility.
Compression socks that end just below the knee can promote healthy fluid movement and reduce stagnant swelling present from repeated trauma. Fluid build-up can restrict joint movement and cause stiffness, impact muscle function and performance. (How can those muscles do their job if they are over run by swelling?)
Compression socks will help move the fluid from the foot/ankle and up the leg to the pump in the calf. From there, each step or muscle contraction pumps the fluid back up the body to be recycled.
Bracing is another option that allows for the ankle to be functional and protected during activity. There are different types of braces, sleeves, wraps and boots that can be effective in reducing injury. One of our favourites is the ASO Ankle Brace. The option to have more or less support is available. The boot design with lacing accommodates different foot shapes and sizes. The ankle cuff caps off the support by stabilizing the tibia and fibula and the long flexors and extensors contributing to ankle function.
Let us help your ankles! Give us a call today to book an appointment.