Ankle sprains. They plague people of all ages, in all walks of life. Particularly frequent victims include those with a pension for clumsiness or athleticism as well as fashionistas who insist on their high heels.
Far from “just a sprain,” the simple turn of an ankle can greatly limit a person’s mobility and produce pain and swelling for months after the initial injury. Long-term effects from ankle sprains can be debilitating, as well. Ranging from knee pain and hip bursitis to lower back pain, the results of an ankle sprain can haunt its victims for years after a poorly managed “recovery.” Re-spraining an ankle can also occur, due to poor recovery management.
Since even a seemingly mild ankle sprain can have far-reaching consequences, it’s wise for people to consider the risks of re-injury. First, untreated ankle sprains can lead to losing one’s “dorsiflexion,” or the ability to flex the ankle to its full range of motion. Such a loss can alter the body’s movement patterns during walking; because the heel leaves the ground earlier than it should, even the most subtle changes in dorsiflexion can cause the gluteus maximus on the sprained side to contract abnormally. Without normal solid heel contact at the base, this kind of split-second change to the normal timing of a simple step can wear on the body, over time.
If you picture the plastic surrounding a six-pack of soda and how it stretches, you’ll be able to envision the way forcible stretching of ligaments can make them deviate from their original length. Of course, this contributes to an increased likelihood of re-injury, since the now stretched-out ligaments are unable to provide the same level of support as they once did. Another contributing factor to re-injury has to do with the body’s reduced communication ability. While healthy ligaments typically tell the brain what position joints are in, sprained ligaments cannot perform this integral task effectively.
Due to the risk factors cited above, playing sports or even walking on uneven surfaces can become dangerous activities for someone who has sprained an ankle. Proper rehabilitation involves ankle stretching exercises such as the soleus stretch (see video below), in order to restore lost dorsiflexion, as well as single-legged, barefoot balance training, in order to strengthen supporting muscles and re-train the central nervous system. In order to promote full restoration of ideal joint motion, seeing a professional physical therapist is ideal, as well. For competitive athletes, quality lace-up ankle braces can encourage stability, further aiding in re-injury prevention.
Whether your sprained ankle resulted from accomplishing a new athletic feat or simply tripping on your own feet, proper rehabilitation and full recovery are key to avoiding further injury to the affected area. If you insist on continually wearing high heels, well, you’re on your own. As the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”!
PhysioDC of Washington, D.C.
Daniel Baumstark and his professional team of physical therapists and personal trainers operate a boutique physical therapy office in downtown Washington, D.C. From athletes to government officials, and from ballerinas to corporate executives, PhysioDC helps people recover, strengthen and return to healthy living. Visit their website at www.PhysioDC.com or call them at 202-223-8500.
From the PhysioDC blog:
- When can I start working out after shoulder surgery?
- How to deal with a shoulder dislocation
- Why does my knee click?
Image credits: Top by Dirima / Fotolia; Bottom by Gennadiy Poznyakov / Fotolia.