Ankle Instability

Posted by Karl McDonald on 19 May 2014

Does your ankle keep “rolling”? Does your ankle “roll” really easily, especially on uneven ground? Does your ankle feel like it “gives way?” Do you have to wear a brace or tape on your ankle to prevent “rolling” it when playing sport?
If the answer is YES to any of the above questions it may be that you have chronic instability of the ankle. If the answer is NO and you have just sprained your ankle for the first time you should read on to help prevent this from being you!
An ankle sprain is a common injury. It usually results when the ankle is twisted, or turned in (inverted). The term sprain signifies injury to the soft tissues, usually the ligaments and capsule, of the ankle.


Ankle Instability

What part of the ankle is involved?

Ligaments are tough bands of tissue that help connect bones together. Three ligaments make up the lateral ligament complex on the outside of the ankle. The common inversion injury to the ankle usually involves the bottom two in the picture above. Normally, the middle ligament keeps the ankle from sliding forward, and the bottom one keeps the ankle from rolling inward on its side.

Why do I have this problem?

When you sprain your ankle it results in stretching or tearing of the ligaments. The result can mean anything from a mild stretch of the ligament to a complete tear of all of the strands of the ligament. How much the ligament is weakened by the injury depends on the degree of the sprain.
When you sprain your ankle there is pain and swelling in the joint. This can cause a reflex where the body turns off the muscles around the joint. It also turns off the proprioceptors in your joint. Proprioception is a “fancy” word for balance and when the muscles around the joint are turned off along with proprioceptors (meaning you have poor balance on that ankle) you can re-sprain your ankle very easily.

What can your Sportsmed physiotherapist do to help?

Your physiotherapist will initially help you regain normal mobility and function in your ankle joint. He/she will also help you strengthen the muscles around the joint and importantly retrain your sensation of balance (proprioception) as a way to steady the ankle joint and protect you from spraining your ankle again. The physiotherapist will prescribe a number of different exercises for this depending on your personal situation, hobbies, sports, etc and progress the exercises appropriately to enable a safe return to your previous levels of activity (whether that be walking/dancing in heels or elite sporting activity.

By getting physiotherapy intervention when you sprain your ankle you can minimize the risk of having recurring sprains and developing chronic ankle instability.

For help with exercises and/or manual treatment for ankle injuries, and further advice and education, make an appointment with one of our highly experienced physiotherapist’s at Sportsmed Physiotherapy.