Prone to Ankle Injuries? Here is What you are Probably Doing Wrong

By Jeff YellinDPT, CSCS, USAW, ART, Partner, Area Manager and Regional Director of Long Island/Queens at Professional Physical Therapy

Ankles sprains are one of the most common ankle injuries with > 630,000 occurring annually.  Sadly, most of these common ankle problems could have been prevented if more attention was paid to strengthening the lower body and core correctly.  

If you’ve been a victim of an ankle injury, here’s where you have likely gone wrong …

1. You are only focusing on your calf muscles.  

Most people feel the need to focus on their calf muscles at the gym and neglect the rest of the muscles in their lower leg. The calf muscles are the largest muscle in the lower leg, however, without addressing the other muscles, such as the peroneals, anterior tibialis and posterior tibialis, you can create an imbalance and decrease your overall stability around the joint. This weakness can then result in common ankle injuries. Therefore, it is important to incorporate isolated ankle exercises in different planes of motion, such as the ankle 4-way exercise with a resistance band in order to prevent the most common ankle sprains and injuries.

2. You are not performing enough single leg exercises.

While we are more inclined to perform exercises using both legs at the same time, it is important to also perform exercises that require standing on only one leg at a time. Single leg activities will strengthen the surrounding muscles around the ankle, help activate the proprioceptors of the ankle joint, and thereby contribute to fewer common ankle injuries.  Proprioceptors provide feedback to your nervous system about your body’s position in space (proprioception) and help stimulate the muscles to maintain balance. When you’re better equipped to remain upright, the chances of experiencing common ankle problems decreases.

3. Your core and hips are weak.

It is so important to address the entire chain to prevent the most common ankle injuries, from your ankle upward, as many other muscles help promote proper alignment of the lower leg and ankle. Weakness in your core and or hip rotator muscles can contribute to poor knee and foot alignment causing your foot to pronate, or flatten. When a foot is prone to collapsing (flattening) this increases the risk and likelihood of common ankle problems.  To prevent this from occurring, try incorporating exercises that strengthen your hips and core such as clam-shells, hip abduction exercises and planks into your workout routine.

4. You are ignoring your small foot muscles.

Don’t forget the intrinsic muscles of your feet – these are very small muscles throughout the foot and toes that help provide stability of the foot to the ground.  These muscles, such as the interrosei, lumbricals, and toe flexors help to protect and stabilize the arch of the foot. This, in turn, promotes improved balance which decreases the likelihood of experiencing most common ankle sprains.  Towel crunches and marble pickups are great exercises to help keep those toes in check.

5. You are not stretching enough.

Tight muscles can limit the overall mobility of your ankles. A tight ankle with less mobility is more likely to result in a common ankle injury, due to the ligaments not having much leeway.  It can also contribute to a functional flat foot position in a weight-bearing position. Therefore, it is important to work on calf stretches for both the gastrocnemius muscle and soleus muscle in addition to ankle mobility exercises.

 

If you are experiencing ankle pain, have been diagnosed with an ankle injury or want to prevent most common ankle sprains, a physical therapist can help design a customized treatment plan specific to your needs. You can find and schedule available appointments with Professional Physical Therapy and hundreds of other quality physical therapy clinics on the BetterPT website and BetterPT mobile app. You can now see a physical therapist without a prescription from a doctor via direct access and can start receiving care and get BETTER faster. Take care of your ankles with exercises to prevent common ankle problems, it will allow you to live life to the fullest!

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