Ankle Injuries are extremely common as the joint is subjected to daily stresses common in everyday activity. The ankle joint is capable of a wide range of movement which is necessary for locomotion and to navigate uneven ground. The ankle takes the full weight of the body and the forces that are exerted on it are considerable.
How Does the Ankle Function?
The ankle is a complex structure in that there are two joints that allow movement at the ankle. These include the tibiotalar joint (true ankle joint) which is the articulation between the lower end of the leg (tibia) and the body of the foot bone (talus). This joint allows you to push the foot down or to pull it up towards you (dorsiflexion and plantar flexion). The second joint is the subtalar joint, which is the articulation between the two bones of the hind foot (talus and calcaneus). This joint allows you to turn your foot in and out (inversion and eversion). Stability in the ankle is achieved by several ligaments, muscles and the joint capsule surrounding the ankle joints.
What Causes Ankle Pain?
The most common ankle problems are sprains and fractures, but ankle pain can have numerous sources. A sprain is an injury to a ligament/s and is commonly experienced when one "rolls over" one's ankle. A fracture is a break in a bone which is generally the result of a forceful incident. You can also injure other parts of the ankle such as tendons, which join the muscles to bone. A common tendon exposed to significant stress is the Achilles tendon. The cartilage in the ankle, which allows for smooth movement in the joints, may also be a source of pain.
The Importance of Exercise Therapy
The ankle muscles and tendons act dynamically to control, move and protect the ankle joint. The muscles move the foot and stabilize the ankle to avoid over stressing the static restraints such as the ligaments. Research has shown that strengthening and improving the coordination of the muscles around the ankle is essential in treating and preventing several injuries. Strengthening and stretching tight muscles also aids in maintaining the correct arch position of the feet. Treatment is aimed at restoring the ankle's function and movement which can prevent chronic pain or instability.