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Why in the heck do I keep spraining my ankle and what can I do about it?


Understanding the problem…..

If your like most people the answer is pretty simple but not likely what you think. The structures of an intact  ankle do more than just hold it together. They provide feedback to the brain about position and placement.  “Weak” ankles don’t really make too much sense. If you look at a diagram of an ankle you will see that there are many tendons passing on through but there really aren’t much in the way of “ankle muscles”.  How then can it be weak, or strong for that matter?

The real issue is proprioception. Your brain has the ability to tell where all of your parts are at any given time. There are little stretch and position receptors in the joints and the muscles that give the brain this information and then the brain can coordinate what is going on.

When you sprain your ankle there is a gross insult to the receptors in the joint structures that damages the feedback/position information system.  The brain will now get sloppy, incorrect, or limited information from the ankle joint. Herein lies the problem.

People who have bad or repetitive ankle sprains will often look down when they are walking…. all the while using their visual system to cheat the game and help the brain know where they are putting their feet. Chronic ankle sprainers will often tell you that they were just walking along and when they looked up at something they turned their ankle. They “put it down” wrong. NOT WEAK… POOR COORDINATION due to poor/altered feedback about position.

Fixing the problem…

So what is one to do?  This is a very serious problem that affects gait and the whole chain of motion that you use to get around.  Proper rehab is imperative. The process is one of gradual retraining of the brain/position receptors using the equipment that you have left in your ankle. It will likely never be perfect but you can be much, much more stable. The process is called propriceptive neuromuscular rehabilitation (a mouthful to be sure). It should be taught by a chiropractor, a physical therapist, trainer or other qualified professional (you need to find out where you are on the scale of deficiency so that you can be given a safe protocol) and can be usually be performed mostly at home. Basically one progresses from using the eyes to cheat in performing stability exercises that remove the visual system from the equation, making your brain change it’s understanding of where your ankle is in space.   If you would like to see what this process looks like you can Google videos and protocols. It is imperative that you don’t dive right in as stability training is dangerous on an unstable ankle, but If you have this problem and you start rehabilitating it you will be very thankful that you did.

Peter W. McManus, D.C.  2551 N Clark St. #605, Chicago, IL 60614, 312-244-0413  drpetermcmanus@gmail.com

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A bit about me… I am a Graduate of Palmer Chiropractic College (95)  and  am in practice in Lincoln Park, Chicago. I have trained in neurology,  sports   injury, gait analysis, rehabilitation, treatment of  extremities, standards of care, whiplash injuries and various other topics since I have been in practice. I have worked closely with university health clinics and hospital rehabilitation departments in Boston and have lectured to state regulatory agencies as an expert in standards of practice. I have been a teaching participant in the orthopedics rotation of family practice medical doctors. I specialize in traditional treatment methodologies with contemporary cutting edge applications. I am adamant that a combination of rehabilitation and a proper short care plan of chiropractic treatment is the best approach for almost any appropriate musculoskeletal condition and I am adamantly opposed to high frequency, ongoing care.

Visit www.drpetermcmanus.com or www.facebook.com/PeterWilliamMcManusDc for more information or to subscribe to my free monthly newsletter and to stay plugged in with its healthy tips and current relevant research links.

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