Recurrent ankle sprains can be both painful and debilitating. Even worse, they often force you to stop training for significant periods of time. If you experience frequent ankle sprains it’s worth looking into why they’re happening and then actually doing something to prevent them.
The classic PRICE or RICE protocol, anti-inflammatory drugs, and braces will get you through the acute swelling and pain but aren’t going to do a whole lot to keep you from spraining your ankle again.
If you’re experiencing recurrent ankle sprains that are affecting your training, this content will explain ankle sprain injuries, reasons why they may be happening, and lastly strategies to decrease your chances of spraining your ankle(s).
Inversion Ankle Sprains
Ankle sprains can be roughly divided into three main groups as detailed below:
- Inversion Ankle Sprains – By far the most common type of ankle sprain involving injured tissue on the outside of the ankle.
- High Ankle Sprains – Roughly 10% of ankle sprains and located between the bones of your lower leg higher up your ankle.
- Eversion Ankle Sprains – The least likely type of ankle sprain involving injured tissue on the inside of your ankle.
If you’re having ankle sprains that are recurrent or happening over and over, you’re probably having an inversion ankle sprain. Inversion ankle sprains happen when your foot rolls inwards (the bottom of your foot is facing your other ankle.) This places tremendous stress on the structures of the outside ankle, especially the ligaments. This stress creates minor to severe trauma of one or more of these ligaments – This is where the sprain is actually happening.
Why You Keep Spraining Your Ankle
There are a few reasons that shed light on why you keep spraining your ankle. I made this list based on my experience treating inversion ankle sprains and by looking at some research.
- Ligament Laxity – When you sprain your ankle it stretches and tears the ligaments to some extent. This may create slack in the ankle joint and what’s called ligament laxity. The ligaments that once held the ankle tight are still there but they’re looser. This creates instability in the ankle joint if not addressed.
- Poor Joint Mechanics – If you have recurrent ankle sprains the chances are that you have a deficit in posterior talar glide and or weight-bearing ankle dorsiflexion. This may sound complicated but just think of it as having dysfunctional movement of the joints that are important to the ankle.
- Lack of Training – You’re not conditioned for the activity or sport that you’re playing. This predisposes you immediately to spraining your ankle. It should be pretty straight forward to tell if this is you.
- Decreased Strength – If you continue to sprain your ankle you may have decreased concentric inversion strength. This means that you don’t have enough strength when tilting your foot inwards.
- Postural Sway – Posture is a significant measure with regards to ankle sprains. You may have a postural deficit farther up the movement chain that is predisposing you to ankle sprains.
Shin splints are another common athletic injury, see this content I wrote on treating shin splints –> Dry Needling for Shin Splints
Curious about dry needling for ankle issues? See how it can help here –> Dry Needling for Ankle Pain
How about plantar fasciitis pain? –> Dry Needling for Plantar Fasciitis
Not sure if you have plantar fasciitis or a heel spur? Read about the differences in these conditions here –> Heel Spur vs Plantar Fasciitis Symptoms
How to Stop Spraining Your Ankle
If you have recurrent ankle sprains, nows a good time to do something about it. Every time you sprain your ankle you’re going to increase ligament laxity and hypermobility. Additionally, you increase the chance of completely tearing a ligament such as the ATF and then you’re looking at an orthopedic surgical consult for fixing it. Here are some rehab strategies to decrease the chances of further ankle sprains:
- Strengthen your hips, upper legs, lower legs, and foot – When you have ankle instability due to laxity or hypermobility, strengthen the muscles around the region to shift the load into the tissues. Unless you have surgical intervention, your ligaments are going to stay the same but working with the supporting tissues can help.
- Get Your Ankle Mobilized and/or Manipulated – Manipulative and mobilization manual therapies can correct your poor joint mechanics and improve areas where you have deficits. See a good chiropractor for this, they are trained more than any other therapists on these techniques and can handle the neuromuscular training as well.
- Break Down Your Training and Build Your Way Back Up – Don’t be ashamed to sacrifice complexity and volume of training to get back to the mechanics and correct them. If you’re trying to do too much volume or complicated movements you haven’t mastered, break them down, acknowledge your faults, and correct them.
- Neuromuscular Training – This includes balance training, strength training, and muscle activation exercises. We do this in our office, but if you’re not close find rehab based provider who does. You need specific guidance and instruction on what you should be doing.
- Postural Training – Figure out if postural abnormalities are affecting your frame and see a good chiropractor to work on these. This is more of a global approach to attacking recurrent ankle sprains but will reap benefits in other areas too.
You can feel confident that our practitioners are experienced in treating and rehabbing recurrent ankle sprain sprains. If you have any questions about your specific case feel free to ask one of our providers or schedule a 10-minute phone consultation.
Dr. Jason Williams DC is a chiropractic physician practicing at AccessHealth Chiropractic in Cary, NC. He treats neuromusculoskeletal pain and injuries using chiropractic manipulation, dry needling, acupuncture, rehab exercise strategies, and other supportive therapies. Primary areas of focus include back pain, neck pain, muscular pain, extremity pain, and orthopedic injuries. Dr. Williams is experienced in treating athletes, especially those in the CrossFit, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, and MMA community.
If you’re interested in whether he or another AccessHealth provider can help you, navigate to our contact page or follow this link to request an appointment.