Here’s some important imformation from your Armadale Physiotherapist to help you overcome chronically sprained ankles!


Basic Anatomy
The ankle forms the area around the joint between the lower parts of the tibia and fibula and the tarsal bones at the back of the foot. It is crisscrossed by a number of ligaments which can become injured when the ankle turns over so that the sole of the foot faces the inside. This is called an inversion sprain. A sprain is a tear in a ligament, whereas a strain results when a muscle or tendon is torn. It is important to get a professional diagnosis, since there may be damage to tendons, bones and other joint tissues in addition to ligament damage.


“Weak ankles” Vs Proprioception
In actual fact, real weakness is not what causes ankles to suddenly “roll” or become sprained.
One of the major predisposing factors causing ankles to become sprained (and often described as weakness) is what we call “proprioceptive deficit”. Proprioception means the ankle joints ability to “know” where it is in relation to the ground, and to react to it appropriately (i.e. balance). This ability is made possible by tiny strain gauges in the ligaments and soft tissues around the ankle joint. These strain gauges give immediate feedback to the ankle muscles about the degree of stretch on the ligament. When the ligament is under undue stress / stretch, the muscles are instructed by the strain gauges to contract and bring the ankle back into a more neutral position, thus reducing the stretch on the ligament (which supports the ankle). 


Proprioceptive deficit occurs usually after the ankle has been strained and then NOT rehabilitated sufficiently. This mechanism requires specific addressing after ligaments have been strained in weight baring joints such as the ankles and knees. When proprioception mechanism is not functioning properly, the ankle muscles do not respond quickly enough to messages from the strain gauges and thus the ankle joints have a tendency to become re-sprained. This tendency is then misinterpreted as a “weakness”.


So, the bottom line is this: sprained ankles need specific rehabilitation (usually by a physiotherapist) in order to re-train this proprioceptive (balance) mechanism. Swelling can go down on its own, ligaments can heal and muscles can get stronger, BUT proprioception will often not return to normal without specific rehabilitation.


Footnote: there may be other causes of ankle sprain which must be out ruled by your Armadale Physiotherapy Centre.


Located at 1199 High St, Armadale, More Than Physio offers Physiotherapy, Clinical Pilates, Podiatry, Massage and TCM to the local Armadale, Malvern, Toorak, Bentleigh and McKinnon communities.