Ankles- your best feature or most vulnerable joint?

Ankles….. are they your best feature? Finely turned in best Victorian fashion? Or do they give you jip? Well, they have every right to give you jip- your ankles are very complex and their role belies their size.

demonstrating the ankle anatomy
The complexity of the ankle joint

The anatomy

The ankle area is made up of 3 bones – the tibia, fibular and talus bone which sits just above your heel bone. Seems simple doesn’t it? However, being the body, it’s more complex than that. The ankle includes three joints: the ankle joint proper or talocrural joint, the subtalar joint, and the inferior tibiofibular joint. As you can see from the picture, these joints have plenty of ligaments to hold them in place. So, to summarise, the ankle joint is a synovial hinge joint only capable of dorsiflexion and plantar flexion of the foot. Problems start when your ankle joints move in ways they were never designed to.



What can go wrong?


You will undoubtedly be familiar with sprained ankles – many of us have suffered from them over the years. The problem is, that once the area has been damaged and stretched, it will be vulnerable to further injury. So you may find you sprain the same ankle multiple times, each time causing a little more damage. There are 3 types of sprain your ankles can sustain, as shown in the picture (just move on if this is making you feel queasy!!)

The severity of the damage can be varied, depending on the height your ankle rolls from (high heels, curb, rabbit hole etc), the speed with which it happens, pre-existing injury and, I’m sorry to say, age!!

What are the symptoms of a sprained ankle?

You will notice swelling and bruising (around the foot, ankle and possibly up the leg). There will be pain, a feeling of instability and difficulty in walking. You may also experience redness and warmth in the joint. All in all, a sprained ankle will make you feel very miserable and should never be regarded as ‘just’ a sprain. The treatment, both immediately after and long term can make a difference as to how your ankle recovers and how you walk in the future.




Although, there is mounting evidence to suggest that compression bandages are not effective in speeding recovery. Some hospital Trusts have replaced C (compression) with P – pain relief and encourage walking, making sure you walk with a heel strike https://www.fl-exercise.com/feet-your-best-friends-so-look-after-them/

Exercises to strengthen the area are vital.  https://www.versusarthritis.org/media/21785/anklesprains-exercise-sheet.pdf

Check out our Facebook advice on exercises for ankles https://www.facebook.com/flexerciseuk/videos/188223639908035?notif_id=1629104975506147&notif_t=page_post_reaction&ref=notif

We also recommend that you seek professional guidance as to the best way to manage your sprain – if there is a high sprain you could actually fracture the fibula and that will need correct management. So, a trip to A&E might be in order if there is no sign of improvement in a couple of days. A good physio or osteopath will also be able to help realign wayward joints and provide advice on exercises specific to your injury. Sadly you will probably need to pay for this as the NHS physio referral service is creaking and you can wait a long time for an appointment, by which time the damage can be permanent.

Of course, (flagrant plug here) FLexercise teachers work on balance and strengthening in their classes so do find your local class to help with your recovery. But please tell the teacher you are recovering from a sprain so she can adapt exercises as necessary. Find your local class here https://www.fl-exercise.com/find-a-class/

Your ankles need care post-injury and remember the old adage time is a great healer (or should that be heeler? tee hee!) However, ankles don’t heal on their own. You must take responsibility for their rehab. Look after your ankles and your ankles will look after you.