Injuries

Balancing act: ankle injuries

A common complaint we hear from people is that they have “weak ankles” or in the sporting world it will be referred to sarcastically as “you’ve got chocolate ankles”.

It inevitably starts with someone going over on their ankle and sustaining a typical inversion injury to their lateral ankle ligaments.  Ankles are the most commonly injured body part – each year approximately 8 million people sprain an ankle.  Millions of those will then go on to sprain that same ankle, or their other ankle, in the future.  The recurrence rate for ankle sprains is at least 30% and depending on what numbers you use, it may be as high as 80%.

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However, I believe and it is widely regarded within the physio world, that many of those second (and often third and fourth) sprains could be avoided with an easy course of treatment and rehab.

Patricia Flavel (AUS) finish line Athletics 2000 Sydney PG
© Sport the library/Tom Putt Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games Athletics – Patricia Flavel (AUS) at finish line

What is balance?

Balance is the ability to maintain your centre of gravity (vertical line from centre of mass) within your base of support with minimal postural sway.

A healthy balance system allows us to see clearly while moving, identifying our orientation with respect to gravity, determining direction and speed of movement, and the ability to make automatic postural adjustments to maintain posture and stability in various conditions and activities.

Maintaining balance requires coordination of input from multiple sensory systems that send information to our brain about our body’s position.

balance

How to improve my balance?

In essence, the key to improving your balance is simple: sand on one leg, try not to wobble, hold for a minute and repeat.

Balance training is supremely low-tech but several studies have shown that the treatment, simple as it is, can be quite beneficial. All you need is simply a little space, a table or wall nearby to steady yourself if needed and a pillow.  You need to firstly ensure that you can comfortably weight bear on the joint before starting balance training.

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Begin by testing the limits of your equilibrium, with the aim being to stand safely and unaided for 1 minute, the pillow can then be used to introduce an unstable surface and make the exercise a little more challenging.  Once you can achieve this you have a good starting base to progress your rehab to the level of recovery that is required for each individual.  This can then be progressed to single leg standing whilst throwing/catching a ball or for the higher-level athlete it may consist of single leg hopping over a box whilst pivoting through 90 degrees.  Either way as their balance improves you will find that their pain subsides and their confidence returns, thus allowing them to return to the gym or football, or more importantly for others, being able to wear their heels again!

So please don’t keep living with those “weak ankles” that are stopping you from your sports, or just impacting your Saturday night out with friends.

If you want some helpful advice or treatment for any persistent injury then come and see one of our experienced members of staff at JMC Physiocures, 01236 425 661 or 07808 552 520.

Check out more of our blogs here.

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