Chances are, you don’t give much thought to your ankles. They’re really a set of functional workhorses for your body – taking a pounding daily when you walk, helping to stabilize you in activity and really acting as the first rung of the ladder to the rest of your body.
Our ankles are small but mighty joints that help with balance and mobility.
Which is why, whe
n your ankles aren’t functioning well, they can cause a variety of problems.
“What you really want are ‘reactive’ ankles,” said MMT’s Dr. Jeff Sergent. “It’s really about mobility – you can see when you don’t have this during things like squats and lunges.”
It’s not just exercise where an ankle problem can show up. Ankles get a big workout on a daily basis as we walk and the average, active person takes thousands of steps a day.
“One of the quickest ways to identify an ankle weakness is by looking at someone’s gait – do they shuffle when they walk? What happens to their foot when they are taking a step?” he said.
A shuffling gait can be an indicator of a variety of problems, from someone who is having balance issues and thus does not feel comfortable picking up their feet due to fear of falling.
Think of how Midwesterners walk in bad winter weather – we tend to shorten our gaits because a normal step on ice often means slipping. The same modification, often subconsciously, occurs when someone is feeling unbalanced in general.
Additionally, one complication of diabetes is diabetic neuropathy, in which some patients can lose feeling on the bottoms of their feet. When this occurs, walking can become difficult because the person cannot feel how their foot is planting on the ground.
Dr. Jeff said that the ankle becomes a receptor to the rest of the body when walking.
“The hips really tell the ankles what need to happen,” he said. “And then the hip trusts that the ankle will react appropriately. The ankle is a hinge joint that is a ‘slave’ to the hip.”
And whether you’ve done it through athletic activity or by accident, it’s not uncommon to re-injure an already sprained or strained ankle. Often this occurs after we perceive healing has occurred and we return to the same activities that set us up for injury. It is also possible to develop a weakness or predisposition to ankle injuries when proper rehabilitation hasn’t occurred in the first place.
Ankle problems – from a lack of mobility to injuries – are something that MMT staff members can identify through a fairly simple screen and then come up with a rehabilitation plan. If you suspect you have ankle issues or perhaps find that you are prone to re-injuring an already weakened ankle, give us a call and set up an appointment.