Anyone who has experienced an ankle sprain knows that lots of different things happen. These things include experiencing pain, loss of movement, loss of power, loss of function and loss of balance. Restoring all these components is vital to restoring full function and returning to the activities that are important to you. These may include returning to your walking programme, resuming your sport after a sporting injury or simply being able to prevent falls.
At Power Physiotherapy we focus on all the components of ankle rehabilitation to help you recover from your ankle sprain. No matter the extent of the injury, from mild to severe, restoring balance will always be part of the overall focus of recovery.
Why do we lose our balance after an ankle injury?
There are many reasons why we lose our balance after an ankle injury. With a sprain, often the ligaments are stretched or even torn. This can impact on the stability of the ankle joint, therefore making it harder to balance.
In addition, in the presence of pain, our muscles may not function at full capacity, therefore their contribution to balance may be reduced.
Finally, there may be a proprioceptive deficit, which means that awareness of where your ankle joint is in space may be impacted. This refers to the fine-tuned messages from your foot, telling your brain where your foot is and what it is doing as it touches the ground.
What happens if we lose our balance after an ankle sprain?
At Power Physiotherapy, our Physiotherapists have commonly seen patients who have not restored their balance after an ankle sprain. This is often because they have not completed their balance programme as instructed.
Unfortunately, this puts the person at risk of re-spraining their ankle. If the fine-tuned loop of information between the foot and the brain is not restored, then a person may not realise they are in a position of ‘spraining again’, until it’s too late.
Poor balance may also impact the skills required for co-ordination, agility, speed, direction changes for sport specific skills. For the non-sports person, it may cause that person to lack confidence in different environments such as walking at the beach, on the grass or any unstable surface. Even simple activities such as moving quickly or stepping off a kerb, may become difficult.
What exercises help restore balance?
Starting very simply:
- Standing on one leg on flat ground, eyes open.
- Standing on one leg on flat ground, eyes closed.
- Standing on one leg on uneven ground (sand, grass, or hill), eyes open.
- Standing on one leg on uneven ground, eyes closed.
- Walking heel toe in a straight line.
- Walking on heels, then walking on toes.
- Walking backwards.
- Perform the same exercises above on a wobble board, or balance cushion.
- Use a BOSU (alternate between the flat side and round side), starting with two-legged balance, progressing to one legged station balance exercises.
- BOSU squats – two legged, then one legged.
- Incline, or decline boards, single legged balance.
- Jumping and landing with two legs on the spot.
- Jumping and landing one movement forwards.
- Hopping on the spot.
- Hopping forwards.
- Hopping with multi-directional changes.
- Jumping and hopping for distance.
- Jumping and hopping aiming for high repetitions under time constraints.
- Running with sudden stops and direction changes.
Why should we close our eyes for some balance exercises?
Closing our eyes makes the task more challenging. It means that we can’t rely on the signals or information our eyes provide to focus on a point. With eyes closed, the muscles around the ankle must work hard to achieve balance.
How long should I be able to stand on one leg for?
There are many different opinions on this topic, but many studies have indicated that you should be able to stand at least 10 seconds on one leg. Obviously the longer the better. The more you practice, the better you become at the skill of balance.
How long will it take for my balance to improve?
Everyone’s rate of improvement is different. It depends on many things such as your starting general fitness, your age, your overall health but one thing that holds true is that if you practice consistently, you will always show some signs of improvement. It’s important to never give up.
We are here to help.
The Physiotherapists at Power Physiotherapy Stirling are skilled and experienced at helping people of all ages with their balance issues, especially after any ankle injury. Whether you have a general balance problem or have sustained a sports injury, come and see the Power Physiotherapy team for help to get you back on track.