​​Chronic Ankle Instability: What are My Treatment Options to Avoid Surgery?

by | Feb 10, 2022 | Physical Therapy

Your feet and ankles are the foundation of your body, allowing you to engage in fulfilling hobbies, stay active, and enjoy life. However, when the integrity of these complex structures degrades, your ability to walk, maintain your balance, and participate in activities becomes more painful and limited at the ankle joint, as well as the hip joint and lower spine or back. When a condition like chronic ankle instability affects your mobility and enjoyment of life, strengthening the muscles surrounding the ankle joint is a typical solution. If untreated, ankle instability can lead to more severe pain and injuries, especially in the knee, back, and neck.

Do I Have Chronic Ankle Instability?

Chronic ankle instability often stems from an acute injury, such as an ankle sprain. A sprain stretches the connective tissue or ligaments that secure the foot to the lower leg beyond their normal range of motion. If the sprain is severe or repetitive, the immune system cannot repair the microtears. The joint integrity weakens or becomes loose and unstable. Instability is demonstrated by how the outer side collapses or “gives out” when walking.

Chronic ankle instability is also pervasive with people born with a connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. EHD is a condition characterized by multiple areas of hypermobility or loose joints.

Either situation leaves you vulnerable to another injury, even minor traumas. You may also experience pain, tenderness, stiffness, swelling, and general weakness that you did not feel before your injury.

What are My Treatment Options?

Fascial Counterstrain

In many cases, the core reason your body cannot resolve pain and stiffness after an injury is due to an unresolved protective reflex that has occurred in your fascia. Fascia is the connective tissue that surrounds and holds every organ, blood vessel, bone, nerve fiber, and muscle in place. The tissue does more than provide internal structure; fascia has nerves that make it almost as sensitive as skin and the ability to contract like a muscle. This contraction or shortening capability allows you to unconsciously withdraw a part of the body or the whole body away from a perceived pain or threat.

Recommended Reading: What is Fascial Counterstrain? It Could Address the Root of Your Pain

A typical response to an injury, your fascia naturally contracts to protect, preventing further damage to the area. Normal responses transition to dysfunction when your fascia continues to contract even after the cause of your injury is gone. This elusive sustained contraction, in turn, changes the harmonious working relationship between the joints in the foot, knee, hip, pelvis, and spine. The change in the relationship and lax ligaments within these structures create a steady and repetitious poor movement pattern generating long-term stress and strain, which weakens the ends of the bone, affecting blood circulation, clinically making bone spurs, cysts, and osteoarthritis.

The body will compensate for lax ligaments or torn cartilage by using other parts of your body differently—namely, your hips, middle back, knee, and foot. As your body is interconnected, this often leads to misalignment in the rest of your posture as well.

Feldenkrais® Method

The Feldenkrais® Method teaches us that the spine, hips, and legs functionally relate as one unit, and loss of motion or stress in one area influences the other areas. Your initial sprain or injury may have stemmed from a spinal injury, postural changes, and lack of mobility in the thoracic spine, or inefficient hip movements. These areas are critical to addressing alongside your chronic ankle instability.

Naturally, we must test the function of your body as a whole to pinpoint the root of your pain and restore the relationship between your ankles and higher bodily structures. Feldenkrais practitioners use their hands to locate the inefficiencies in your body and demonstrate more efficient movement patterns. Movement re-education aims to increase your bodily awareness, maximize your mobility, and free you from painful neuromuscular patterns.

Achieve Pain-Free Movement

Without a proper recovery, chronic ankle instability can lead to an increased risk of osteoarthritis as well as a general loss of enjoyment and freedom in your life. Let us work together to restore proper flexibility and mobility back to your ankle joints. Get in touch with me at 812-344-4119.