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Ankle Causing Issues In Your Life?

What Is The Ankle Joint?

The ankle is a pretty important joint in your body and has the role of holding and stabilising your entire bodyweight so looking after it should be important too!

Today I am going to talk about common injuries faced by the ankle, what to do if you ever encounter an injury in the ankle or foot, ways to manage pain and limitation. You will also understand after reading this the ways you can prevent ankle/foot injuries, how to mobilise and strengthen it so you will never have an issue when it comes to your foot and ankle. Building confidence within your ankle will help with stabilising the chain that connects up to your hip through your leg and even up to your head through your spine.

If you have neck pain or some type of back pain it would not be uncommon for your physio to release through massage or needling through your foot or scientifically the plantar fascia :)

The ankle joint is a synovial joint which is similar to the knee however operates a bit differently. It is also referred to as the talocrural joint which is the connection between the 2 shin bones and the foot bone (fibula and tibia to the talus). There are 4 main movements completed by the foot!

  1. Dorsiflexion: this is where the foot comes up towards the shin bone or when you tip your toes up off of the floor. It is also called dorsiflexion when you move your knee or shin bone over your toes. Basically a decrease in the angle between your shin and your foot!

  2. Plantarflexion: this is where you point your toes away from your shin. I like to call this type of movement dancers toe and once you do it yourself you will understand why haha

  1. Eversion: this is where you turn your foot so it is facing away from your midline or the sole of your foot is facing out. This can be seen with your pinkie toe being the highest point when you are in full eversion.

  2. Inversion: This is where you turn your foot to face inwards towards your midline. This can be seen with your big toe being the highest point when you are in full inversion. This is the most common position to be in when you 'roll your ankle'.

The ankle is a pretty complex structure and is made up of multiple bones and ligaments but i'll break it all down pretty quickly for you.

  1. Bones: contains the tibia, fibula and talus which connects to form the main structure in the ankle. However you cant forget all the small bones that make up the tarsal bones and create the variety of movements involved as shown above... (talus, calcaneous, navicular, cuboid, lateral cuneiform, intermediate cuneiform, medial cuneiform)

  2. Ligaments:

    1. Anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL): connects the fibula in the shin to the talus bone in the foot. This is the ligament that comes under a lot of strain in an ankle sprain or rolled ankle

    2. calcaneofibular ligament (CFL): connects the fibula in the shin to the heel or calcaneous.

    3. Posterior talofibular ligament (PTFL): connects the back of the fibula in the shin to the talus bone in the foot

    4. deltoid ligament: the biggest ligament in the ankle which connects the tibia in the shin to the talus, calcaneous and navicular bones of the foot. This ligament has the primary role of preventing inward and outward rotation of the ankle.

  3. Tendon: Achilles tendon! The largest tendon in the human body!! It plays a main role in anything that involves movement of the foot be it walking/running or even jumping. It connects the muscles in the shin to the foot which plays a role in all the movements involved with moving the foot in an inward/outward or down/up direction. It is prone to injury due to its massive role in overall movement.

Common Injuries Faced In The Ankle ?

Plantar Fasciitis

This is a very common condition expressed by pain and inflammation that runs on the heel and bottom of the foot! It can cause limitation and tightness in the foot due to the inflammation/pain expressed.

The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue that runs between the toes and the heel which can be strained or damaged.

It can occur due to overuse, poor foot and walking mechanics, tight calfs or even obesity...

The best way for you to overcome this issue would be to increase the mobility within the foot, maybe change your walking or gait pattern if you feel unbalanced at times and strengthen the ankle, knee and hips. Aligning the entire chain will help take a load off of the plantar fascia.

It is pretty common for most people to express pain in the bottom of their foot especially if they are always on their feet, walk/run a lot, or even stand for extended periods at a time!

Rolled Ankles

I mean who hasn't rolled there ankle these days? If you live in Sydney i'm sure you have rolled a few ankles as you walk along our pathways or parks haha

If not, it is not uncommon for you to roll an ankle and if you have pretty low stability or strength within your ankle joint then there is a higher risk of you rolling it. Im not saying that every rolled ankle is due to poor stability but it plays a big role in preventing the injuries that may occur from a few too many rolled ankles...

The injury that occurs with rolled ankles is called a sprained ankle and is pretty common in athletes or sports that focus on jumping or changing direction. It is also pretty normal for this to occur when you are casually walking through a park and find an imbalanced surface...

Ankle Sprain

An ankle sprain refers to when the ligaments within the ankle take on too much of a load and are over stretched or torn. A rolled ankle sometimes results in a sprain but it is not always the case in this situation.

Anything that opposes the ankle in a different direction to what is most comfortable (flat) places strain upon the ligaments as they are stretched to be able to keep the foot in the same position. If this is pushed too hard it will result in a tear which is graded from 1 being a minor tear that can heal and 3 being a full tear which requires surgical intervention

Achilles Tendonitis/Rupture

The achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the body for a reason and that is because of its large role to play in overall movement of the body!!

I would just classify any injury to the achilles tendon by grades as well however I will go further into each one

Grade 1 - partial tear or inflammation of the tendon which brings up pain symptoms and limitations in movement of the foot and ankle

Grade 2 - tear of the tendon which will require immobilisation techniques to allow for proper healing to take place to enhance the rebuilding stage of the tendon to its functioning patterns.

Grade 3 - complete tear of the tendon which will require surgical intervention to reconnect the tendon to its correct positioning. This will allow you to continue movement however will require you to undertake a lengthy rehabilitation protocol

Ankle Fractures

This can happen when single or multiple bones within the ankle are broken and can range from small chips to complete smashes within the bone. Depending on the severity of the fracture will determine the length of immobilisation, possible surgical intervention and length of time you will spend in rehabilitation.

It's possible for this to occur with overuse or even trauma through smashes or tackles in sport.

I got mine from jumping and landing on a rolled ankle position in a football match...

Syndesmotic Ankle Injuries

This occurs when the ligaments which connect the tibia and fibula are over stretched or torn. This happens with twisting, bending or even through overuse injuries. If you are constantly stretching the ankle in positions that require ligament use then you will eventually push it too far resulting in an injury...

Peroneal Tendonitis

This occurs through inflammation in the tendons that run along the outside of the ankle! It is common to occur with differing levels of fractures, overuse or repetitive stress caused in sport or daily life activities that may utilise this tendon.

Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

A condition when the nerve in the tibia which runs along the inside of the ankle is compressed or pinched. This expresses pain, tingling and/or numbness in the ankle and foot.

This nerve can be damaged through a variety of ways and can be damaged without the other injuries or in conjunction with some of the injuries listed above...

Dancer's Ankle

This is a condition commonly faced by dancers especially balerina's or other dance styles that involve jumping, landing or twisting movements. Scientifically it is called anterior impingement syndrome or ankle impingement syndrome.

The reason why dancer's tend to get this type of injury is due to the repetitive stress and overuse of the ankle completed by those practicing dance as a sport or activity. The repetitive stress expressed by dancers can lead to inflammation, pain and limited mobility. The injury may be caused from a sprain, trauma or even a fracture.

The injury will be expressed through pain, swelling, tenderness, stiffness and limited range of motion within the joint. You should treat it through RICER techniques!

I always say this but the best way to prevent injuries especially those caused through overuse is to develop a joints range of motion and attach strength to the new found end ranges. With dancers it is common for them to express very high flexibility and low stability or strength so ensuring an increase in strength will allow dancers to prevent these injuries as much as possible and stay dancing!!

Sports That Have A High Risk Of Ankle Injury

There are a variety of sports that carry with it a high risk of injury within the ankle but when you seriously think about it, it would be the sports that utilise movement of the foot as a regular part of competition or practice. For example, dancers are always pointing, twisting, jumping and turning on their feet and toes to ensure they get quick agile moves across the hard wooden floors. Therefore, it is not uncommon for an expression of injury to occur!!

Football players or soccer players tend to get many ankle injuries due to the high force they would be hitting a ball, passing and sprinting across a grass pitch. The pitch would get ruined through play which may result in a few holes/unbalanced ground which makes it easy for players to get trapped and slip into an ankle sprain.

Ice skating or anything on ice is a pretty common sport or activity that may result in ankle injuries due to the stability and balance needed on thin sticks or boots. Due to the placement on skis, boards or even skates, athletes must have a very good base of support and strength to ensure they can safely get out of awkward positions without risking injury within the ankle.

Closing Thoughts

I come from a highly active sporting background where I was involved in football from a young age, touch, oz tag, rugby and even some forms of dance. It was not uncommon for me to get lower body injuries ranging from my ankles up to my shoulders due to these sports so I do have a lot of background when it comes to injuries.

I noticed one thing in common in all of my sports, the ankle was so important in making sure I was stable and fixed and able to quickly turn, jump, sprint and because football was my favourite and preferred sport it was utilised A LOTTT!!

So yes I have faced many ankle injuries however these ranged from a slight ankle sprain up to a pretty bad ankle fracture that put me out of play for 14 weeks...

The fracture was one of my most recent serious injuries and I have to say it was really debilitating in the sense I could not do what I loved to do anymore. My activity levels plummeted, I was placed in a moon boot and honestly it was one of my drivers to push past the norm and follow a path that not many people do these days in the health and fitness world.

I pride myself on being an injury prevention coach as I believe that if you can prevent injuries there is a decrease in the need for rehabilitation. I notice physio's popping up left right an centre with multiple branches in each suburb where I live in Sydney. This can only mean one thing... an increase in injury occurrence.

So if I can teach one thing in my life here it is going to be to do the best you can at improving your joints mobility level and attaching strength at your new found end ranges. I get repetitive but its 2 guiding principles that will result in ensuring you prevent injuries as best as possible so you don't need to go to a physio every-time you get some sort of pain, you can get through it on your own!!

I did the research so you don't have to yourself!

I have a few videos up on my socials on ankles and exercises I do consistently to ensure my ankles are 2 things!

  1. strong as shit so I know it is going to take a lot of force for it to break, snap or get any sort of injury

  2. mobile! so I can get into awkward weird positions without placing too much of a strain on my ligaments and the joint so I am pretty safe from getting injured from over stretching!

Keeping these 2 things in check allows me to have the confidence to play my sports, train the way I do and even try new things without having a worry about instability or possible injury.

Even though I have had multiple injuries on my ankles I can tell you right now they are in a much better state right now than they were in prior to those injuries. They are a lot stronger and a lot more mobile :)

Keep going through your mobility and strength training and you will reap the rewards too!!



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