The Problem Ankle
Updated: Jul 8, 2021
A sprained ankle can happen to anyone, and it can be from something as simple as just putting a foot wrong when walking.
Anyone who has suffered a sprain can tell you that it is surprisingly painful and can put you out of action for a long time.
A simple, uncomplicated sprain involves tearing of the ligament fibers on either side of the ankle joint. Smaller injuries involve only a few of these fibers and heals easily, but in severe cases more and more fibers are torn. Occasionally there will even be a complete rupture of the ligament. The most serious sprains will actually result in a fracture of the nearby bones and any severe ankle sprain should be screened to ensure no fracture exists. For these more serious injuries, most people do seek medical and physiotherapy treatment and follow through with adequate rehabilitation.
For less complicated sprains, however, many of us just let nature take its course. While it’s true that our bodies are great healers, a few people report ongoing problems well after the injury has healed. Common complaints include continued pain, loss of movement, loss of balance and repeated injury of the same ankle There are a few reasons for this, which can be treated with an appropriate rehabilitation program.
For instance, while we rest our injury and wait for it to heal, it doesn’t take long for the surrounding muscles to lose strength, shorten and the joint to stiffen- even just a little. If the swelling that occurs following an injury is not managed well, sometimes small adhesions can form contributing to this joint stiffness. On the other hand the torn ligaments may heal, but with less stability than before. This means that the muscles which control the joint have to work harder to keep the same level of balance and normal movement. A joint that doesn’t move normally is quite often a source of pain and potentially even osteoarthritis later on in life! (Not that we’re trying to scare you!)
Another important factor in loss of balance is Proprioception, this refers to your ability to sense what position your ankle is without looking at it. This turns out to be a pretty important part making sure you don’t put all your weight onto a twisted ankle! Frequently after an injury this ability is reduced and greatly adds to the risk of spraining the ankle again. Weaknesses of the muscles surrounding the ankle only exacerbate the problem, leading to a chronically painful and problematic ankle.Your physiotherapist can help with a program focused on restoring any lost movement, strengthening weakened muscles and improving proprioception.
It doesn’t matter how long ago your injury was, a program can be made for you which will help the function of your ankle and most of all prevent any unnecessary further injury. Naturally, many ankle injuries will heal without any complications, but if you’re experiencing any of the above it might be time to visit your physiotherapist.