Lateral ankle sprains are the most common injury among physically active people, yet probably one of the least commonly seen in a clinical setting. This is likely because people think ankle sprains will heal quickly on their own, with minimal intervention. While this is true, the majority of people who have sprained their ankle before will sprain their ankle at least one more time.

When I do see someone in the clinic with an ankle sprain, they ask me why they keep spraining their ankle. While many may think that it is just a weak ankle, when muscle strength is tested, the muscles are quite strong. Then why do you keep spraining your ankle? It is actually sensory receptors in the joint that are the real culprit.

All ligaments and soft tissues have different sensory receptors that will send different pieces of information back to your brain about where your joint is in space, the terrain you are on, and so on. This feedback allows us to adjust to our environment and make sure we don’t fall over or injure ourselves during our daily activities. When you repeatedly sprain your ankle, sensory receptors called joint mechanoreceptors get injured or lost as well. As a result, you lose that sense of where your joint is in space. While that may not seem that bad, imagine you are walking on a trail or bumpy terrain. Normally when you encounter a bump in the road, your joint detects the change in terrain and knows that your foot is turning, so you’re able to adjust and stabilize yourself. If you’ve lost the mechanoreceptors in your ankle, you can’t sense that your foot is turning, so you don’t correct and now you’ve rolled your ankle. Again!

However, just because these joint receptors have been lost, it doesn’t mean they can’t be “found” again. Like any other area of the body, they need to be properly rehabilitated with balance training playing an integral role. A physiotherapist is trained to assess your balance and proprioception, as well as test any other deficits that may be contributing to your recurrent injury.

If you do happen to be in the majority of people who keep spraining their ankle, you know who to see; at Wilcox Physiotherapy & Sports Injury Clinic we would be happy to help you in your recovery.