Suffering from Chronic Ankle Pain?
Chronic ankle pain runs rampant among athletes and former athletes. Our awareness begins at our feet and ankles so it’s important that this joint functions properly. You do not have to be a former athlete to experience chronic ankle pain. It is even more common among everyday people and worse for those who have suffered frequent or severe ankle sprains.
Ankle stability is one of the key focuses for sports performance and chronic illnesses such as Ehlers Danlos Syndrome or “EDS”. In this blog, we discuss a common cause of chronic ankle pain. We also look at exercises that strengthen the foot and ankle muscles to maximize performance.
We hear this story all too often:
Doc., I’m confused – I haven’t injured my ankles, but I continue to struggle with pain around my ankles when I exercise. What’s going on?
Aches and pains in your ankle while walking, running, or jumping are often caused by a previous ankle ligament injury. This often results in weakened deep and lateral ankle muscles along the side of the ankle and deep behind your calf. These muscles aid in both balance & stability functions. When they’re compromised, your ankles must compensate, which leaves you more susceptible to injury.
How Do We Treat Chronic Ankle Pain?
Ankle pain is a very common issue, and a limitation that many people can overcome. We treat it by utilizing specific movements to target those ankle muscles. Exercises that strengthen the deeper and lateral lower leg muscles will in turn increase control to improve overall stability.
If you have injured or not properly trained your lateral ankle muscles, your ankles are working extra hard. The most probable cause is that your ankle is moving side to side unnecessarily, especially when walking on uneven surfaces or jumping.
Many of the most-effective treatment programs utilize balance and resistance band training. You’ll find detailed information on one of the foundational ankle-strengthening exercises, using a resistance band moving the ankle forward and backward, in the video above.
Effective Exercise You Can Do at Home to Reduce Chronic Ankle Pain & Increase Ankle Stability
To begin the ankle exercise, sit down in a chair and extend your leg directly in front of you. Then, loop the resistance band around the ball of your foot with your toes pointed up. Flex your ankle by pushing your toes down toward the floor as far as they can go. Slowly control the resistance band as your foot returns to its straight position. Focus on maintaining a straight knee (not locked) while you do this so that all effort is spent strengthening the ankle.
Implementing ankle strengthening in various planes will work to dynamically exercise & activate the deep and lateral muscles around your ankle that reduce the risk of chronic ankle injuries. Remember, a little bit of resistance can go a long way. Be sure to use a lightweight resistance band to avoid straining these already weak (and potentially damaged) muscles, progressing as tolerated.
Balance-oriented exercises are also a great way to round out a strengthening session. Try closing your eyes and balancing on one foot for 30 seconds or so … it’ll be harder than you think!
What to Do if Home Exercises and Self-Treatments Don’t Remove Your Chronic Ankle Pain?
For additional information on other ankle stabilization exercises, check out this article written by the University of Michigan Medical team or reach out to a certified CTA in your area. Better yet, come visit us at PARR PT in person at our Austin, Houston, or Steamboat Springs locations to have a trained physical therapist assess your specific situation and give you a prescribed regimen that you use to get back to peak health in no time! Click here to schedule a phone consultation with our office