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No More Ankle Sprains Part II

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The previous post How To Treat Ankle Sprains and Prevent Them promised another effective technique on the missing link in preventing and rehabbing ankle sprains in today's post. It follows below. First, it made news yesterday that a well known name in spine research, Stuart McGill, found what I have been saying for nearly 30 years of my research career - that tightening the abs and "sucking them in" inhibits healthful movement, and using the popular "draw in the abs" technique is making yoga and Pilates classes the sources of more back pain and problems. The post What Abdominal Muscles Don't Do - The Missing Link shows why crunches and Pilates are not the best exercises for core muscles, and the comment replies to Healthier Backpack Carrying to Get Better Exercise and Stop Back Pain give more links on how abs really work. The next post will cover the news from Dr. McGill and my years of research of what works the abdominal muscles in healthier ways instead.

So today you get two breakthrough fitness posts in one. Now the promised second fun thing to do for more stable ankles. Maybe you never sprained your ankle but wear supportive shoes thinking that will keep you from sprains. Maybe you've sprained your ankle in the past, and rested it and keep it braced during activity thinking that will help, and did ankle exercises, usually consisting of "spelling the alphabet" in the air with your foot or using resistance bands. The "exercises" often do not prevent repeat sprains, leading people to think that exercise will not help and only bracing will "support" an ankle. Rest and bracing often make things worse - the numbers show many repeat sprains in people following this method. Why?

The missing link is receptors in your ankle that sense if you are standing straight on your ankle or if your ankle is bending outward, a movement called inversion. In an inversion sprain, the bottom of your foot turns toward the other leg and your ankle bends too much, overstretching or tearing the connective ligaments. Inversion is the most common source of sprains. There are two common beliefs in medicine - that strengthening will help prevent sprains, and that strengthening will not help. Both points of view are missing that preventing sprains requires something else - training the receptors that tell you if you are about to invert. This sense is called proprioception. Without it, the ankle does not send signals to your leg muscles to prevent you from turning it. With proprioception training, you learn how to sense ankle position and balance to keep it from inverting. Allowing inversion when stepping up or down is surprisingly common, even in people who exercise frequently. No wonder they get sprains. The last post showed the interesting proprioception drill of rising to toes while not allowing your ankle to invert. Try that first, then try this next step:

  1. Rise to tiptoe and lower to full foot, keeping your ankles straight without allowing your weight to shift over your small toes. Keep weight over your big and second toe. Repeat at least 10 times.
  2. Work up to rising to toe and lowering on just one foot (good for balance).
  3. Work up to careful jumps, first coming down on both feet, then on one foot. Each time, land with your weight centered over your big and second toe, not turning your ankle outward, then roll gently down until the whole foot is one the floor.
  4. Use the above stabilization technique each time you step up or down from anything, including stairs and curbs.
  5. With this practice, you can train your ankles to deliberately hold healthy position with each foot-fall, reducing your risk of sprains, instead of letting the ankle turn outward.

Related Fitness Fixer:

Unhealthy Yoga Ankles
and
Better Hip Stretch - Check Your Ankles
show a common way that people predispose themselves to sprains by overstretching ankle ligaments without knowing it, and how to prevent it.

Coming Next:

Why Using Abs Is Not Tightening.

 

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Photo by vomsorb
More on ankles and abs in the book Fix Your Own Pain Without Drugs or Surgery


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About the Author


M.Ed, PhD, FAWM

Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.

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