What Causes Ankle Pain

Ankle Pain & Injury

The scar tissue and muscle weakness left behind after yesterday’s injury can be a major factor in pre-determining today’s pain! Injuries often leave behind scar tissue and muscle wasting, both of which are known causes of stubborn pain.

Both research and clinical experience have shown over the years that you are at a significantly higher risk of suffering from ankle pain if you have had knee and ankle injuries in the past. It has also been suggested that slower recovery times from ankle pain episodes are more prevalent in those who have suffered from previous sprained ankles.

Ankle Pain & Muscle Tone

The human ankle has minimal ‘local’ muscle support, that’s why it is such a boney piece of real estate.The glutes and thigh muscles are the primary support for the ankle joint and ankle ligaments In addition, some of the smaller muscles along the outside of the shin have a role to play in pain prevention. 

If the large support muscles further up your leg (glutes & quads) aren’t firing correctly during football matches, hill runs, F45 and Zumba classes etc.; you have a greatly increased risk of ankle pain, and slow recovery from ankle pain. Strengthening these muscles carefully under professional guidance is the key to this kingdom !! 

Ankle Pain & Alignment Issues

Movements performed with correct alignment of the leg put infinitely less strain on the body’s tissues than tasks performed with poor alignment. Alignment problems can all too easily become an issue without us realising. Walking, running, lifting and even just standing with poor form can create weaknesses in the ankle ligaments without us realising.

Using clever technology to identify subtle movement issues and then prescribing exercises and advice based on those findings is the key to dealing with ankle pain caused by alignment issues.

Ankle Pain & Repetitive Strain

A truly monumental number of the pains we suffer in life happen in body parts that had been severely weakened by repetitive strain. An averagely active human ankle bears it’s owners entire body weight over 50 million times each year, mostly on very hard urban terrain. If that’s not a recipe for repetitive strain then nothing is.

Repetitive strain can be accelerated by any number of the issues highlighted in this list, yet it is also to some extent the nature of life for the human ankle. Repetitive strain in all its forms is a major part of what predisposes some ankles to pain more so than others. Identifying the causes of exaggerated repetitive strain in our ankles can be a major help in resolving and preventing ankle pain.

Ankle Pain & Footwear preferences

If you live in an urban environment it’s essential that you have sufficient protection from concrete, paving, and tarmac. We evolved to walk on soft uneven surfaces, not hard flat ones.  Footwear choices that lack sufficient support, space for the toes, and shock absorption can all influence ankle pain and its rate of recovery.

Happily through, the use of modern custom orthotics and wise footwear choices, most of us can somewhat have our cake and eat it too, as opposed to needing to wear trainers for the rest of our lives.

Ankle Pain & Walking / Running Style

Walking and running with a fair amount of biomechanical efficiency is essential for the maintenance of healthy ankles. If you have an unusual way of moving and bearing weight it can put unnatural stresses on the foot and eventually cause pain.

Modern scanning technology (like the Plantiga system we use) uses highly sensitive hardware and artificial intelligence machine learning to identify movement abnormalities. This then enables tailored coaching and exercise prescription for prevention of future ankle pain.

Ankle Pain & Arch height

Having  high arches can cause chronic strain and pain in the ankle when they are not properly supported over time. At the other end of the spectrum, having low arches is like having poor shock absorption, which can lead to  scar tissue build-up in the ankle. Ankle tissues that are chronically scarred or strained are far more likely to suffer with pain.

Wearing modern custom orthotics and making wise footwear choices can contribute greatly to stabilisation of your ankle joints over time. This is one of the most accessible and simple ways we can care for our ankles.

Ankle Pain & Leg length Discrepancies

Having one leg longer than the other can put an excess strain, usually on the longer side. The longer leg will tend to take more weight and do more work which may lead to repetitive strain and pain in the ankle. Only a small percentage of leg length discrepancies are ‘true discrepancies’ however and most are caused by a tilt of the pelvis.

Distinguishing between true leg length discrepancies and false (pelvis is tilted) leg length discrepancies is the key to troubleshooting these issues, and the impact they can have on recurrent ankle pain.

Ankle Pain & Foot Type

The length and width of your feet are major factors determining how much stress your ankles come under during activities. People with very narrow feet are more prone to a wide variety of foot and ankle issues.

A wider foot is a wider and more stable base, a more stable base means a more stable ankle. Thankfully in most cases, supporting the foot and strengthening the leg is more than enough to prevent sprained ankles and assist with recovery from ankle pain in people who have narrow feet.

Ankle Pain & Lifestyle Choices 

Too much of the wrong type of activity on an ankle can weaken it’s connective tissues over time. Not enough of the right exercise and activity can lead to weakening of the leg muscles and predispose you to ankle pain. 

Periods of extreme inactivity followed by sudden major increases in activity (like jumping back into a sport we had previously given up) can leave us open to ankle pain. Wearing extremely high heels and drinking excessively can predispose you to ankle pain.. Lord knows that’s a recurring theme :)

Sometimes it’s easy to see where we went wrong, other times a bit of professional coaching is necessary to figure these things out. Happily there are already solutions for ankle pain that relates to lifestyle choices.

Ankle Pain & Hip Width

Being taller means you are more predisposed to banging your head on things than short people. Having wider hips means you are slightly more predisposed to ankle problems than people with narrow hips. Wide hips influence foot and leg mechanics when compared to narrower hips. This is a reason you seldom see successful Olympic distance runners with wide hips. 

Whether your hips are wide or not is ultimately neither here nor there if you are willing to work at your ankle issues. Strong hips, wise ankle care and well supported feet means no more ankle pain regardless of hip width.

Ankle Pain & Connective Tissue Weakness

Some of us are born with the type of teeth that mean we live our whole lives without needing a filling, others are getting their first fillings before their 10th birthday. The same is true of the body’s cartilage, some of us are just born with a more robust constitution in our cartilage cells. If you don’t have the strongest cartilage fibers it may increase your likelihood of ankle pain and other pains too for that matter.

If you have ankle pain and less than 5 star cartilage it’s super important that you tend diligently to any other issues on this list that apply to you. When the genomics revolution comes they will be able to retrofit us with decent cartilage, but that won’t be soon enough most probably. So hard rehab type work it is!!

Ankle Pain & Hard Surfaces 

If you stand on bare concrete all day in your work the chances of you developing repetitive strain type weaknesses in your ankle is reasonably high. Surfaces like concrete are so hard that they are virtually toxic to the soft tissues of your feet and ankles. 

The same truth applies to the home as does the workplace. If you walk around on bare concrete which has no carpet it could easily be a significant contributing factor in the genesis of your ankle pain.

We won’t be resurfacing the urban world any time soon so the key to managing over-exposure to hard surfaces is the use of tools and principles that help protect the body from hard terrain.

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