4 Easy Steps to Healing a Rolled Ankle
By Dr. Molly Casey
Ankle injuries are common with athletes and non-athletes alike. One of the most common injuries comes from what folks call “rolling the ankle.” An inverted ankle injury is the most frequent ankle injury and walking on ice in winter time is a common scenario of how/where these occur. Chiropractic, among other interventions, can help the healing process and prevention of additional injuries.
Inversion Ankle Roll
An inversion ankle roll injury is when the lateral (outside) ankle ligaments are sprained and the tendons of the lateral peroneal compartment of the leg are strained. Sprains involve overstretching and tearing of the ligaments whereas strains involve the joints’ associated muscles and tendons. Think of stepping on a curb and the bottom of your left foot turns in toward the right ankle and your weight is then on the outside of the left ankle. This is an ankle roll injury of the left ankle. It occurs commonly with stepping “wrong” on a rock, a dip in a yard, a toy, or anything that creates uneven ground.
There are a few things you can do to facilitate the healing of a rolled ankle.
The most foundational approach to the naturally healing process for ankle roll injuries is to first have the lumbar spine and pelvis adjusted by a chiropractor; the nerves that exit these areas are innervating the leg and ankle. This is the road of communication from the brain through to the ankle. With the adjustment, you’re improving the communication system and increasing the healing opportunities, such as a decrease in inflammation and optimal function for cell repair and regeneration. In addition, the ankle joint can be manipulated to assure proper range of motion and function of the numerous bones, such as the talus at the ankle joint itself and calcaneus, or heel. When these bones are restricted, motion and function are decreased and the chances of rolling the ankle are higher as the joint itself isn’t working optimally.
Inflammation in and of itself is not bad. It is present because damage is done; it’s a part of the normal healing process. Uncontrolled and chronic inflammation becomes an issue that can impede healing. The first thing a patient should do is rest and respect the fact that an injury has occurred. There are natural supplements, such as bromelaine, turmeric, and garlic, that are easily found in natural food stores that don’t have the side effects of prescription medications used to wipe out inflammation. These substances work with the body’s natural processes.
Proprioception is the brain’s ability to perceive where a portion of the body is in space. So think of your eyes being closed and outstretching your right index finger; your brain’s ability to know that the right index finger is outstretched and in which direction is proprioception.
When an ankle roll occurs, proprioception is damaged and decreased. Healing and getting the ankle back to optimal function requires that one rehabs the ligaments and tendons, retraining the proprioceptors. A simple exercise to do so (after pain and inflammation has subsided) is start the practice of standing on one foot and try to hold for one minute with stability (as little shaking as possible). Repeat on the other side. Then progress to doing so with eyes closed. Another option is a wobble board; stand one foot on the wobble board, eyes open, with total stability for one minute, and then again progressing to eyes closed for one minute. A wobble board is a board that has a ball on the bottom that purposefully is meant to simulate uneven ground and challenges your joint’s ability to stay stable.
Last but not least, strengthening the lateral muscles of the leg is a significant part of the rehabilitation process and will assist in avoiding ankle rolls in the future. One can start with simply sitting on the floor with outstretched legs. Begin by tracing the alphabet with the ankle and foot in the air. Then bring the foot/ankle up and out so the pinky toe is tipped toward the outside of the hip/knee. Repeat this motion in full for one minute at a time; do it three times for each foot daily. Increase the level of difficulty by adding a resistance band of any sort and repeating the motions.
Ankle roll injuries can be painful and really irritating to daily life. They are also common. Address the healing and rehab process immediately, conservatively, and thoroughly to best assure your chances of not repeating the injury. The doctors at The Joint Chiropractic can help you along your healing journey!
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