How many of you have suffered from sprained ankles over the years? Now how many of you are now left with bouncy rolling ankles? Do you often ‘go over’ on your ankle, but bounce back up with no pain or sprain? But what if next time you ‘go over’ on your ankle you are not so lucky and fall on your knee or hip and injure another part of your body?
It amazes me how many people suffer from these unstable bouncy ankles including myself. Whether it be from frequent sprains, ligament damage, lack of rehabilitation at the time of the sprain or simply a lack of strength it is never too late to help improve the situation.
Although the chances of healing your ligaments after such a long time are very low, stability can be gained by strengthening the muscles and tendons that surround the ankle joints. Some simple rehabilitation even years down the line can make a phenomenal difference to the stability of your ankles, helping to improve your gait, your ability to play sport or to run for a bus without ‘going over’ on your ankle.
Strength & Flexibility
Start out slow – Spelling your name with your foot, ankle circles, etc. are all good ways to get the muscles that surround the ankle moving. Next stage is to increase the strength. Resistance bands are a cheap and easy way to gradually add resistance and strength to your ankle work. Resisted pointing, flexing, inverting and everting are all useful to ensure complete stability. With strength comes great responsibility…. the responsibility to ensure these muscles remain flexible also! Stretching is important, not just stretching the calves but all of the muscles of the ankle so moving into stretches in all planes should be included. Sports massage is also really useful in this process.
Balance work is EXTREMELY important in ankle stability work. Not only does balance work improve the function of the ankle, it is proprioceptive, getting the neuromuscular receptors in the tendons and ligaments fired up and responding to ensure you remain upright and stable on uneven ground. Try standing on one foot for 1 minute building up to 2 minutes without wobbling all over the place. Next up try shutting your eyes and doing the same thing, who knew your eyes were so important to movement and balance! Once your balance has improved its time to add movement, reach, bend and move all while staying balanced on one foot, with your foot remaining fully on the floor.
So we can isolate muscles, stretch them and improve their balance but that’s no good if the stability does not remain through functional movement and therefore our daily activities and sports. This is where functional exercises play a major role in rehabilitation. Try split squats, lunges and side squats. The key is performing dynamic movements that require the ankle to move in many planes all while remaining strong and stable.
This something I have personally worked on after growing tired of going over on my ankle when running (and landing in ditches!) or when turning on a key point in a squash match (and losing the point!) and cannot believe how much of a difference it has made to my stability. Go on – give it a go, it’s never too late to make a difference. If you try this and still no improvement it’s probably time for you to seek some professional to get the bottom of your specific problem. Ensure you research or reach out to a fitness professional to help you build a plan that works for you and to ensure that you are doing the exercises correctly.
Note if you have recently sprained your ankle then seek some professional advice as your treatment protocol will be different. It is important to ensure you heal as quickly and as well as possible so you don’t end up in this situation that some of us find ourselves! Good luck.