While we do live a beautiful country, sometimes we are all too familiar with the slippery winters and uneven surfaces that come with the territory. Since our ankles put in the overtime to keep our balance during these months, we have to pay them for the overtime. To do this we need to strengthen our proprioceptors all around.
In our ankles we have many tendons from the main big muscles above the ankle (Gastrocnemius and Soleus, our 3 Peroneals, and our Tibialis anterior and posterior to name a few), as well as the smaller ones from all the intrinsic muscles of the foot. We also have a slew of strong ligaments in the ankle to support it as well. While these ligaments usually do a good job of keeping our ankle in a safe range of motion, they sometimes are put past their limits and can possibly tear or sprain. This happens more frequently in the winter due to uneven and slippery surfaces where our ankles cannot adapt fast enough. The muscles that pull on the ankle also help to keep within a safe range of motion by ‘feeling’ when the ankle is going to be going past its limit and pulling it back quickly. This response is autonomic and happens without conscious thought as another mechanism of protection for the ankle. We call it proprioception; oh how we in this field love our proprioception!
Ankle injuries are also very common in sports and rec activities because the majority of these require us to use our legs! All of your body weight passes through these very mobile joints. While being mobile is a positive thing allowing for quick dash and change in directional movements, it also allows more chance for injury. Anyone participating in the quick dash sports and activities should do some sort of ankle stability training to help keep injury free. The stronger the ankle is the better!
The best way to train ankle stability and stay injury free is to emphasize ankle stability through static and dynamic balance exercises. Balancing on one foot, lunges, and alphabet exercises are great ways to do this. The video this week shows a couple great exercises for ROM (range of motion), stability, and strengthening for the ankle. These exercises need to be held for long enough that the ankles proprioceptors kick in and we aren’t just falling from side to side. Use a counter or wall to support you while starting out! Once you get proficient and can balance for longer periods of time, challenge yourself by controlled balancing on unstable surfaces such as a couch cushion or pillow! Let us know if you have any other questions or concerns!